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Urinary Tract Infection

  • What is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

    The urinary system consists of the bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra. The kidneys act like filters to remove excess fluid, electrolytes and waste from your blood, and retain only essential elements. Each kidney has a ureter (a small tube) that joins it to the bladder. The urine is removed from the kidney into the bladder through the ureters. When the bladder is full, the urine leaves the body through a tube called a urethra. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection to any part of the urinary system. Urinary Tract Infections usually affect first the bladder or the urethra, and if not treated they can then spread to the ureters and the kidneys. Urinary Tract Infection types include:

    • Bladder Infections (Cystitis)
    • Kidney Infections (Pyelonephritis)
    • Urethra Infections (Urethritis)
  • Urine is usually sterile, which means it does not have any bacteria, viruses or fungi. A UTI can occur when a microorganism enters the urinary system through the urethra. Most infections are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is a digestive tract bacterium that lives in the colon, and spreads to the urethra from the anus. Other microorganisms including Chlamydia and Mycoplasma can cause UTIs in men and women, but these UTIs are usually restricted to the urethra and the reproductive system. Since these microorganisms are sexually transmitted, both partners require treatment if infections occur.

    Some people have higher risks of developing UTIs.

    • Other causes that increase the risk of UTIs include structural abnormalities of the urinary system, urinary stones and bladder obstruction.
    • People with diabetes are also more prone to UTIs because of the excess sugar in the urine. Men with an enlarged prostate have a high risk of developing UTIs because they are usually unable to empty their bladder completely.
    • UTIs can also occur in babies born with abnormality in the urinary system.
    • Women are more vulnerable than men to UTIs (1 woman in 5 develops UTI during her lifetime) because they have a shorter urethra, therefore bacteria do not have a long distance to travel before they reach the bladder. Women’s risk usually increases when they become sexually active, and also after menopause due to the dry state of the urethra and vagina.
  • UTI symptoms vary depending on the type of the infection, and further vary between children and adults. Additionally, some people with UTIs may not have any symptoms. When symptoms are present, they can include any of the following:

    • Back pain
    • Blood in the urine
    • Cloudy urine
    • Fever and chills
    • Frequent and urgent need to urinate
    • Incontinence
    • Malaise (feeling generally unwell)
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Pain in the abdomen or above the pubic bone
    • Pain in the ribs
    • Painful and burning sensation during urination
    • An adequate antibiotic course is usually enough to treat uncomplicated UTIs. The choice and duration of antibiotic treatment depend on your medical history and the type of bacteria that is causing the infection.
    • Preventative measures, especially in women with recurrent infections, can be adopted to reduce the risk of developing UTIs. These include:
      1. Drinking cranberry juice or taking vitamin c to help acidify the urine and therefore inhibit bacterial growth
      2. Drinking plenty of water
      3. Not holding the bladder for long, and urinating when you feel the need to
      4. Urinating immediately after sexual intercourse
    • Women with recurrent UTIs may need to take antibiotics daily for three to six months, or after sexual intercourse.
    • Kidney damage can occur if cystitis is not treated as the infection can spread to kidneys.
    • Serious blood infection (Septicaemia) can occur if the bacteria causing the UTI enter the bloodstream.
    • UTI during pregnancy can lead to premature birth and high blood pressure.
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