In this article, Dr. Renuka takes us through the basics of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), a common bacterial infection in women in the reproductive age group. The further talks about UTI diagnosis and treatment, the link between UTI and periods, how to take care of it through a diet plan.
Urinary Tract Infections: Everything you need to know.
Dr. Renuka Dangare is an experienced resident doctor. Renuka has been Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at Shlok Multispeciality Hospital, Pune and has completed rotations in Cleveland Clinic, Allegheny General Hospital, University of Texas Houston, Larkin Hospital Miami and Brooklyn Methodist New York. When she isn’t working, she loves to bake to unwind.
A Urinary Tract Infection or UTI is an infection in any part of the Urinary System–the kidneys, ureters , Bladder and urethra. To clarify here, ureters connect your kidneys to your bladder and the bladder is a pouch that holds your urine. The urethra is the tube that carries your urine out of your bladder and body. An infection of the urethra also called as urethritis, may cause burning sensation when urinating, and cloudy appearance to urine.
UTI’s occur when foreign bacteria enter via the urinary opening or urethra and ascend upwards in the urinary tract. Commonly, the organisms that cause these infections are from the otherwise normal flora of our gut or skin. It may bring other bacteria through sexual contact.
Women are particularly at a higher risk for UTIs because of the way our anatomy is structured. The urinary opening is in proximity to the vaginal and anal openings and the urethra is shorter compared to men. How short? Exactly one penile length short. Besides this, women who use diaphragms are more at risk. Hormonal deficiencies during menopause also make women vulnerable to UTIs.
Infection limited to UTIs can easily be treated through antibiotics. However, if left untreated, UTIs may also involve kidneys where it becomes more dangerous. A kidney infection may cause permanent kidney damage. In rare cases like extremes of age or very poor immunity, the infection may also spread to the bloodstream and can be life threatening.
Recurring UTIs are common among some women. Overuse of the antibiotics also reduces their effectiveness by making disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli resistant.
How does one get a UTI
UTIs often result when urine stagnates in the bladder, making it a perfect spot for bacteria to grow. Pooling may be because of an obstructed urinary flow—from an enlarged prostate in a man or a distended bladder in a woman. An UTI may happen if a ‘bad’ bacteria clings to the urethra and finds its way to the bladder. Other causes include frequent sexual activity, indwelling urinary catheters, kidney stones, and a lack of estrogen in the lining of a woman’s vagina, as with menopause.
Common symptoms of UTI
The common symptoms of a urinary tract infection are a burning sensation during urination, pelvic pain, frequent need to urinate, and the feeling of not being able to empty the bladder. With severe urinary tract infections, a woman might see blood in her urine.
Recurrent UTIs are when a woman has had two or more UTIs within six months, or three or more UTIs within a year.
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosing a UTI requires testing a sample of urine to look for bacteria and white blood cells, showing infection. Treatment is usually a short course of antibiotics, but a more advanced infection may require stronger antibiotics given in a hospital.
If you don’t respond to a prescribed antibiotic, your doctor may suggest a urine culture where the specific organism is identified.
Link between UTI and Periods
Having a UTI should not directly affect your period but there are other factors that link UTIs and periods, such as hormonal imbalances, stress, sex, and hygiene. Tampons and pads when not changed regularly enough promote bacterial growth and can increase the chances of getting a UTI.
Taking care of UTI through a diet plan
Vitamin C supplement: Doctors often recommend taking a supplement of 500 to 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C daily, or getting Vitamin C from foods such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, strawberries, blueberries, green leafy vegetables, and green peppers.
Use of Probiotics: Probiotics contain tons of “good” bacteria. Probiotics are available in supplements and in fermented foods such as plain Greek yogurt, cheese.
How to prevent an UTI when you’re sexually active?
Urinate before sex and promptly after. This will flush your system and keep bacteria that has entered your urinary tract from gaining a foothold. Make sure you clean your genital and anal areas (wiping front to back only) before and after sex. If you’re prone to UTIs, you might use a diaphragm or spermicide as pregnancy prevention. Make use of a vaginal lubricant. Friction during sex can irritate the urinary opening.
Can I be sexually active if I have a UTI ?
Having sex during a UTI may exacerbate your symptoms, infect your partner or even introduce a new infection. So it is best avoided. However, if you wish to still proceed, you can with certain precautions –
- Always wipe front to back.
- Wash before and wash after with soap and water
- Use barrier protection
- Find a position comfortable for you and your partner
- Do not let your partner perform oral sex on you or stimulation with fingers.
- Don’t change orifices without changing condoms
Myths surrounding UTIs
It’s common to get a UTI and not get any symptoms at all. The most common myths surrounding UTI are as follows.
- Cranberry juice helps to treat UTI :It is said that cranberry juice contains tannins which prevent E. Coli the most common cause of UTIs from sticking to the inside of your bladder. But the research is weak and inadequate.
- Using Public toilets causes UTI: It is unlikely that touching a toilet seat will cause UTI’s as the urethra or urinary opening does not touch it
It is advisable that drinking more water results in more urine production, which flushes out bacteria in the bladder and prevents infection. Women who drank more water had an average of 1.7 UTIs, compared with 3.2 on average for women who didn’t add water to their diets. If a woman has recurrent UTI, she should consider her daily fluid intake and try to increase it to at least two to three liters a day.
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment.
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