A urinary tract infection (UTI) is any infection affecting the urethra, ureters, bladder or kidneys. Your urinary tract can be divided into the upper urinary tract and the lower urinary tract. The upper tract consists of the kidney and the ureters; the lower tract consists of the bladder and the urethra. The infection usually starts in the urethra and bladder, and may become more serious if it moves up to the kidneys.
What causes UTIs?
UTIs are more common in women than in men. This may be due to women having shorter urethra, which allows bacteria to access the bladder quickly.
It is important to always wipe from front to back as the urethra is located close to the anus. There are many bacteria such as E. coli that are located in the large intestine which may escape via the anus.
Sexual activity can also introduce bacteria to the urinary tract.
It is also important to empty your bladder frequently and not hold your urine for too long, as this can expose the bladder to bacteria, which can increase your chances of developing a UTI.
Symptoms of a UTI
These symptoms indicate the possibility of a UTI:
- A burning feeling when you urinate
- Pain or pressure in your lower abdomen and lower back
- A need to urinate frequently, even when your bladder is empty
- Feeling tired or shaky
- Fever or chills
Treatment for a UTI
If you observe one or more of the above symptoms, the first thing to do is to seek help from your doctor, who will test your urine for the presence of bacteria. The standard treatment is usually antibiotics to help to kill the bacteria. It is best to see your doctor sooner rather than later, so as to prevent your infection from escalating into a more serious kidney infection.
Equally important is the intake of lots of fluids to help to flush out your urinary tract. Studies on the effectiveness of drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills have had some encouraging results as well. Cranberry is thought to contain a tannin that prevents the bacteria from clinging onto the bladder wall.
Prevention is better than cure
To reduce the risk of developing UTIs, there are a few things you can do:
- Drink plenty of water and urinate often
- Urinate immediately after sexual intercourse
- Wipe from front to back after urination and bowel movements
- Cleanse your genital area regularly with mild soap and water
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine if you suspect a UTI, as they can irritate the bladder further
The above strategies may be helpful to prevent UTIs. However, if you feel the aforementioned symptoms coming on, it is best to seek help from your doctor as soon as possible to prevent development of a more serious infection.