Many of us have had to cope with the uncomfortable situation of having a urinary tract infection (UTI). Even though it's a relatively common condition, the pain and discomfort involves makes it somewhat inconvenient to deal with. Plus, there's also the embarrassing factor, having to rush to the toilet very often.
The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and uretha. When there's excessive bacteria in this region, you'll get a UTI. This is especially so when bacteria – usually e.coli – is present in the lower urinary tract, namely the bladder and urethra. Women are more prone to UTIs than men as we have a shorter urethra and therefore it's easier for bacteria to move up the bladder.
UTI is a common condition. In fact, around one in two women will experience it at least once in their lifetime. The rate of UTIs in women also gradually increases with age.
One in five women aged between 20 and 65 will suffer at least one attack every year. Out of these, three per cent of them will turn into a chronic recurrent UTI.
So how do you spot an infection?
1. Frequent urination
One of the most common signs of UTI is the frequent need to urinate as well as the feeling of urgency in urination, even when there's only a little urine.
2. Burning sensation
Not only will you be passing urine more frequently, you'll also experience a burning sensation while doing so.
3. The colour or smell of your urine
Your urine could also be cloudy, dark, foul-smelling or bloody.
4. Bodily changes
In some cases, women also experience tiredness or shakiness, as well as nausea or back pain. You'll also feel pain or discomfort in your lower abdominal area, either with or without having a fever too.
How to prevent UTI
1. Adopt good hygiene habits
UTIs can be prevented by adopting good hygiene habits. As most of the bacteria comes from the bowels, it's important to clean from front to back to avoid faecal contamination of the vaginal region. Also, empty your bladder regularly so that there's no residual urine in it to potentially be infected by any bacteria.
Clean your genital area with water daily – especially before and after sexual intercourse – and avoid using potential irritants such as vaginal deodorants, douching agents and bubble baths. Urinating after sexual intercourse is another way to flush away urine that's possibly contaminated with bacteria.
2. Drink cranberry juice and take probiotics
Drink this beverage often as it contains certain chemicals that reduce the chance of bacteria sticking to the bladder skin lining, which leads to infection. Taking probiotics is another good option, as they introduce 'good' live bacteria into the bowels and reduces the chance of the 'bad' bacteria spreading and causing an UTI.
Thankfully, most cases of UTI are easily treatable. If you think you have an infection, drink more than two litres of fluids a day to encourage more urine formation to flush out the bacteria. Seek treatment from your doctor if it doesn't clear up in a few days.
Your doctor will prescribe a dose of antibiotics and you should take them together with at least three or four litres of water (and other fluids) a day. Although the infection is normally confined to the bladder, it may spread to the kidneys if left untreated, which could cause permanent renal damage.
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