Urinary Tract infections Q & A
Q1. What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
A UTI is an infection of the urinary system from microbes. Bacteria cause most of the UTIs, but some of them may also be caused by yeast infection and viruses (very rarely). The majority of the infections occur in the lower part of the urinary system that consists of the urethra and the urinary bladder. Women are more prone to develop a urinary tract infection than men.
Q2. What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?
The symptoms of UTI depend on which part of your urinary system is affected. The infection can affect the bladder (cystitis), urethra (urethritis) or kidneys (acute pyelonephritis). The various lower urinary tract infection symptoms are:
- Burning while passing urine
- Frequent urination with a reduced quantity of urine
- Blood in urine
- Increased urgency to pass urine
- Cloudy urine
- Urine that appears like tea or cola
- Strong smelling urine
- Pelvic pain is one of the symptoms of UTI in women
Infection can also affect the upper part of the urinary system including the kidneys. In such cases, if the bacteria travel from the kidneys to the bloodstream, it can lead to urosepsis- a life-threatening condition characterized by shock, low blood pressure, and death.
Symptoms and signs of UTI (upper tract) or kidney infection symptoms are:
- Tenderness and pain in your upper back region and sides
Q3. What are the causes of a urinary tract infection?
Urinary tract infections most commonly occur in females and affect mainly the urethra and the bladder.
Infection of the urinary bladder (cystitis): It is generally caused by the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is commonly present in the gut. Cystitis can also occur due to sexual intercourse. All females are prone to develop cystitis due to their anatomy, especially as the urethra lies at a short distance from the anus.
Infection of the female urethra (urethritis): The UTI causes are spread of gut bacteria from the anal opening to the urethral opening and the spread of sexually transmitted infections including herpes, Chlamydia, mycoplasma and gonorrhea from the vaginal opening to the urethra.
Q4. What are the risk factors of a urinary tract infection?
UTIs commonly occur in females and many females suffer from greater than one UTI during their life. The following factors make females more prone to develop urinary tract infections:
- Anatomy of a female: The urethra of a female is shorter than a male. This reduces the distance, which bacteria have to travel to enter the urinary bladder.
- Sexual activity: UTIs are more common in females who are sexually active in comparison to females who don’t get involved in sexual intercourse regularly. If you have a new sexual partner then it increases your risk of getting a UTI.
- Certain kinds of birth control: Females using certain kinds of birth control methods such as diaphragms and spermicidal agents are at a higher risk of developing UTIs.
- Menopause: After you reach menopause, there is a decline in the levels of estrogen that results in urinary tract changes making you more prone to develop urinary tract infection.
- Kidney stones: Blockage in your urinary tract due to the presence of kidney stones can retain urine in your bladder increasing the risk of urinary tract infection. Some of the kidney stone symptoms are a pain in your back, side or belly, burning or pain during urination, blood in urine, an urgency to pass urine, smelly urine, cloudy urine, passing small amounts of urine at a time, chills and fever, and vomiting and nausea.
Q5. How will your doctor diagnose a urinary tract infection?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and test a sample of urine for the presence of bacteria, red blood cells, and white blood cells. They will ask you to collect a “clean catch” sample of urine for testing. During this, you have to wash your genital area and then collect the mid-stream urine sample.
If you have recurrent UTIs, your doctor may suggest additional diagnostic tests including ultrasound, MRI, CT, and cystoscopy.
Q6. What is the treatment of a urinary tract infection?
Treatment of a urinary tract infection depends on its cause. In the majority of the cases, a UTI is caused by bacteria; hence, an antibiotic is prescribed as UTI medicine to treat it. A UTI that has a virus as a cause is treated with an antiviral. Often cidofovir is the antiviral that is given to treat a viral UTI. Yeast infection treatments include medicines called antifungals.
If you have UTI, then you should drink plenty of fluids and urinate frequently so as to help in flushing out the bacteria in urine. You can take painkillers to relieve pain. You can also apply a heating pad to your abdomen or back to ease discomfort from a UTI.
If you have recurrent infections of the urinary bladder then you should:
- Take one dose of an antibiotic after having sex
- Take one dose of antibiotic daily for a minimum of six months
- Take a two to three-day course of antibiotic if your urinary tract infection symptoms reappear
- Use vaginal estrogen if you have already undergone menopause
Q7. How to prevent a urinary tract infection?
You can take the following steps to decrease your risks of developing a urinary tract infection:
- Drink lots of fluids, particularly water
- Consume cranberry juice
- After going to the toilet wipe from the front direction to the back direction
- Pass urine soon after having sex
- Don’t use feminine products in your genital region that may cause irritation of the urethra
- Diaphragms and spermicide-treated or unlubricated condoms can lead to the growth of bacteria; hence, if you are using these for birth control, then replace them with another method of birth control
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