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How women can avoid, survive urinary tract infections

Ogechukwu Agwu

At 19, Bisi experienced difficultly in urinating. Soon it progressed to severe pain in her pelvic. The pain was so much that the young women found it difficult sitting upright for long.

A laboratory test at the hospital showed she had an infection, an urinary tract infection (UTI), to be precise, also known as bladder infection. This is an infection from microbes, organisms that are too small to be seen without a microscope.

Causes

According to Agumah Bernard, a medical expert, “the major culprit is a bacterium, although it is also caused by fungi and in rare cases viruses. However, the most common cause of UTI is the bacteria called E. Coli, found in the gastrointestinal tract. In women, the infection mainly affects the bladder and the urethra.”

Although this infection affects both men and women, the latter are mostly affected due to their anatomy and reproductive physiology. According to a study published by the School of Chemical and Biotechnology, SASTRA University, India, “the infection is usually as a consequence of bacterial invasion of the urinary tract including the lower and the upper urinary tract. Among the bacterial species, Escherichia coli (E. Coli) accounts for 80 to 85 per cent of the infection, followed by Staphylococcus species that constitutes 10 to 15 per cent.

Women are more likely to contract this infection, especially during pregnancy than men due to their physiology. Bacteria are responsible for the infection, but some UTIs are also caused by fungi and in rare cases by viruses. Studies have shown that it can be a consequence of poor diagnosis and is regarded as the common hospital acquired infection.

The urinary tract is made up of the kidney, ureters, bladder and urethra. The bladder and the urethra are the lower tract, whereas the kidney and the ureter are the upper tract.  Most UTIs occur in the lower tract. However, infection can occur in the higher tract and this is more dangerous and is usually severe.

Symptoms and risk factors

The symptoms of UTIs vary and they are largely depended on the part of the tract affected. What this simply means is that there are symptoms of lower tract UTIs and upper tract UTIs.
Symptoms of lower tract infection include, burning with urination, increased frequency of urination without passing much urine, cloudy urine, bloody urine, coloured urine, like tea, urine with an offensive odour, pain in the pelvic (for women) and pain in the rectal (for men).
Symptoms of upper tract include, pains and tenderness in the upper back and sides, chills, fevers, nausea and vomiting.

The upper tract UTIs affect the kidneys, which could be life threatening, especially if bacteria moves from the infected kidney into the blood. This condition called ‘urospesis’ can cause dangerous low blood pressure, shock and, in extreme cases, death.

Factors that predispose women to having urinary tract infection, according to an article published on Daily Post, include:

Female anatomy: A woman has a shorter urethra than a man does, which shortens the distance that bacteria must travel to reach the bladder.

Sexual activity: Sexually active women tend to have more UTIs than
women who are not sexually active. Having a new sexual partner also increases your risk.
Certain types of birth control: Women who use diaphragms for birth control may be at higher risk, as well as women use spermicidal agents.

Menopause: After menopause, a decline in circulating estrogen causes changes in the urinary tract that make you more vulnerable to infection.

Urinary tract abnormalities: Babies born with urinary tract abnormalities that don’t allow urine to leave the body normally or cause urine to back up in the urethra have an increased risk of UTIs.

Blockages in the urinary tract: Kidney stones or an enlarged prostate can trap urine in the bladder and increase the risk of UTIs.

A suppressed immune system: Diabetes and other diseases that impair the immune system — the body’s defence against germs can increase.
 
Risk of UTIs

• People who can’t urinate on their own and use a tube (catheter) to urinate have an increased risk of UTIs. This may include people who are hospitalised, people with neurological problems that make it difficult to control their ability to urinate and people who are paralysed.

• Urinary surgery or an exam of your urinary tract that involves medical instruments can both increase your risk of developing a urinary tract infection.
There could be complications when treated promptly and properly. Lower urinary tract infections rarely lead to complications. But left untreated, a urinary tract infection can have serious consequences.

• Recurrent infections, especially in women who experience three or more UTIs.

• Permanent kidney damage from an acute or chronic kidney infection (pyelonephritis) due to an untreated UTI.

• Increased risk in pregnant women of delivering low birth weight or premature infants.

• Urethral narrowing (stricture) in men from recurrent urethritis, previously seen with gonococcal urethritis.

• Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection, especially if the infection works its way up your urinary tract to your kidneys.
 
Treatment

Depending on the cause of the infection, most treatments are usually treated with antibiotics, used when the cause is bacteria. Where viruses or fungi cause it, the appropriate medication could be antiviral or antifungal depending on the causative agent. The form of antibiotic used to treat a bacterial UTI usually depends on what part of the tract is involved.

Lower tract UTIs can usually treated with oral antibiotics, while upper tract UTIs requires intravenous antibiotics. These antibiotics are put directly into your veins.

To prevent the reoccurrence of this infection, women should place emphasis on personal hygiene.
Agumah advises that women should wipe from front to back after urinating. This, he said, will prevent the bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.

Emptying your bladder after having sexual intercourse is also important, just as drinking a full glass of water, which help flush bacteria.  Drinking water helps to dilute urine and ensures that you will urinate frequently, and thereby allowing bacteria to be flushed.

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