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The Lowdown on UTIs—Causes, Treatment and Ways to Prevent

Our expert breaks down the common causes of UTIs, symptoms to watch for and ways to recover from the infection. From taking due precautions before and after intercourse to drinking enough water—these are small steps that can help, read on for more.

By D TEJASWI

The Lowdown on UTIs

You can be involved in shopping, looking for interesting book labels or watching antique lamps when it suddenly hits you. You know you have to find a washroom and fast. This can be one of the most inconvenient signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Uti infection is commonly categorised into upper UTI (affecting kidneys, also known as pyelonephritis) and lower UTI (also known as cystitis). “If you have an upper urinary tract infection, you can be typically unwell with fever, loin pain, nausea, vomiting and malaise (a general feeling of discomfort),” explains Dr Venkat Ramesh, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad. Lower uti infection generally has symptoms such as hesitancy, poor/intermittent stream, straining, etc. “UTI, in severe cases can also lead to blood stream infection, abscess (a swollen area with body tissue, containing accumulation of pus, sepsis (presence of harmful microorganisms in blood) and low blood pressure,” adds doctor.

 

How Common Is A UTI–Men Vs Women

The incidence of UTIs in adult males is low, with adult women being 30 times more likely than men to develop a UTI, says SMJ Medical Journal. The shortness of the urethra, with its close relationship to the anus, makes it easy for bacteria to ascend in the urinary tract for women.

 

What causes a UTI?

  • Colonization of urethra: Dr Ramesh explains that most uti infections usually begin with colonisation of urethra. Colonisation can be understood as a state when you have germs in your body, but you do not feel any sickness, signs or symptoms. This makes the initial detection of UTI difficult, says the doctor.
  • Urine stasis: Further, some patients experience stasis of urine, a state where normal flow of urine stops. “This may occur in patients with kidney stones, cancer or neurological problems. “A person is more likely to get UTI if he/she has blockages in the urinary tract, such as a kidney stone,” explains Dr Ramesh.
  • Diabetes: You are also likely to have an enhanced risk of UTI if you fall under risk factors such as diabetes or immune suppression.
  • Urinary catheter—an infection source: These hollow tubes that collect urine from the bladder are a source of infection. “In most cases, it is prolonged use of the catheter that causes infection,” adds the doctor.
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the bladder and urinary tract faces pressure from the growing fetus. In certain situations, there may be urine stasis (stagnation in the normal flow of urine). It increases the risk of recurrent bacteria in urine which may cause UTI.
  • Sexual Intercourse: Intercourse can let the bacteria into urethra and into the bladder, which can increase the risk of UTI.

 

Diagnosis of UTI

A urine culture test plays a significant role in detection of UTI. The type of germs found in the urine sample influences the UTI infection treatment including dose of antibiotics and further action.

 

Treatment of UTI

  • Oral antibiotics: Oral antibiotics treat acute symptoms and prevent long term complications in UTI, says the British Medical Association Journal. “For lower urinary tract infections involving the bladder, antibiotics are usually administered for 3-5 days, usually in tablet form,” adds Dr Ramesh.
  • Intravenous (IV) antibiotics: Usually administered to treat complicated UTI infection, IV antibiotics are an effective form of high-dose antibiotics. “In specific cases of UTI when the kidney undergoes inflammation or cases where the patient is immune-supressed, using intravenous antibiotics for a minimum of 7-10 days helps cure the infection,” he explains.
  • Operation: “If there is an abscess or stone which can be surgically removed, an operation may be needed.,” he adds.
  • Home Treatment:For UTI treatment at home and to prevent UTIs from reoccurring, stay hydrated by drinking enough fluids. According to a study conducted by Bristol Urological Institute, Bristol, UK, sufficient hydration can help flush out harmful bacteria.

 

Lifestyle Changes To Prevent UTI

You can follow the below easy tips for uti infection treatment.

  1. Maintain clean genitals. Water is the best cleanser.
  2. Women should clean from front to back. Uncircumcised men should carefully clean the area under foreskin after the shower.
  3. Drink plenty of water—at least eight glasses in a day.
  4. Do not hold the urge to pee.
  5. Urinate after intercourse. It helps eliminate any bacteria in the bladder.
  6. Keep underlying risk factors such as diabetes under control.

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