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Causes, Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention Of Urinary Tract Infections In Women

Urinary tract infections or UTIs are infections of the urinary system. These infections are much more common in women than in men. Studies show that 1 in every 2-3 women has a permanent risk of contracting a UTI, while chances for men to develop a UTI in their lifetime is 1 out of 10.

Although urinary tract infections are very common, they can be successfully treated by antibiotics and practising good hygiene. If you have contracted a UTI, it better to consult a doctor or a healthcare expert at emeds Pharmacy for the treatment.

Understanding Urinary Tract Infection

What is it?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urinary system. The infection could be in any part of the urinary system, including your kidneys, ureters, urethra, and urinary bladder. The most frequent types of urinary tract infections found in women affect the bladder and urethra.

If you’re a woman, your risk of getting a UTI is ten times more than that of men. Moreover, many women get UTIs repeatedly in their lifetime, sometimes prolonging for years. Urinary tract infections are of different types depending on which part of the urinary system is infected. The infection can either be painful and irritating when it affects the bladder or severe when it reaches the kidneys.

UTIs are commonly treated with antibiotics. However, some steps can help you avoid getting one in the first place. For prevention, the first and foremost step is to have good knowledge about it.

Types of urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections are of various types. Each type has a different name depending on which part of the urinary system is affected.

Cystitis (bladder infection): You feel a constant need to urinate with this infection, or it might be painful to pee. It can also cause abdominal pain and cloudy or bloody urine. Cystitis is commonly caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria found in your gut. But some other kinds of bacteria are also responsible for this infection. Sexual intercourse is another factor that may lead to a bladder infection. However, you don’t need to be sexually active to be at risk. All women, due to their anatomy, in particular, are liable to cystitis.

Pyelonephritis (kidney infection): This type of UTI causes kidney inflammation, typically due to a bacterial infection. Its symptoms are fever, nausea, vomiting, and pain in your upper back or side. Other symptoms may include urinating frequently and a burning sensation during urination. Severe pyelonephritis can lead to sepsis or even kidney failure.

Urethritis (urethral infection): Urethritis is also caused by gastrointestinal bacteria. It occurs when the bacteria spreads from the anus to the urethra. The symptoms include discharge and burning during urination. Since the female urethra is located close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections, including herpes, gonorrhoea, mycoplasma and chlamydia, can also cause urethritis.

Symptoms of UTIs in women

Urinary tract infections may not always show symptoms, but when they do, they could be the following:

  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Feeling a constant or intense urge to urinate even though little comes out
  • Dissatisfaction after urination
  • Urine has a strange smell
  • Urine seems cloudy
  • Urine appears red, bright pink, or dark brown in colour. It means that there is blood in the urine.
  • Having fever or chills, which signifies that the infection may have affected your kidneys
  • Feeling tired or dizzy
  • Feeling pressure or pain in your lower abdomen or at the sides. The pelvic pain is concentrated at the centre of the pelvis and around the pubic bone.

Causes of UTIs in women

It’s prevalent among women to develop a urinary tract infection, and many females experience multiple UTIs during their lifetime. The most evident factors that cause UTIs in women are:

  • Female anatomy: UTIs are the primary reason doctors advise women to wipe from the front to the back after using the toilet. A female’s urethra is shorter than a male’s, which decreases the distance that gastrointestinal bacteria need to travel to reach the urethra.
  • Sexual intercourse: Sexually active women have a higher risk of developing UTIs than those who aren’t. Also, having intercourse with a new partner greatly increases the chances of UTIs in both males and females.
  • Weak immune system: Your immune system is responsible for fighting off and killing any harmful bacteria that enters your body. If you have a weak immune system or have a disease that affects the immune system, such as diabetes, your chances of getting a UTI are higher.
  • Menopause: Menopause causes a decrease in estrogen levels which affect the urinary tract. These changes make you more vulnerable to UTIs.
  • Some forms of birth control: Use of diaphragms or spermicidal agents increase the risk of UTIs in women.
  • Genes: Some women are more likely to get UTIs due to their genetic composition. The formation of their urinary tract makes it easier for the bacteria to cause infection.
  • Abnormalities in the urinary tract: Infants born with urinary tract defects are more likely to develop UTIs. Such abnormalities affect easy urination or cause urine to back up in the urethra.
  • Blocked urinary tract: An inflamed prostate gland or the formation of kidney stones can trap the urine in the urinary bladder, thus facilitating the onset of UTIs.
  • Use of catheter: People who use a catheter to pass urine have a higher risk of UTIs. A catheter is a tube used by people who can’t urinate on their own due to a medical condition or injury. Such people may include hospitalised patients, paralysed or disabled, amputees, and individuals with certain neurological disorders that affect their urination ability.
  • Use of medical instruments: Using different medical tools during a urinary surgery or an exam of your urinary tract can significantly increase the risk of UTIs. That is why qualified doctors and medical health experts always sterilise their equipment and workspace to minimise the spread of diseases.

Apart from these, some other health conditions can also increase your chances of developing UTIs. These include hormonal change, multiple sclerosis, heart attack, and a spinal cord injury.

Treatment for Urinary Tract Infections

If you feel that you have a UTI, then go see a doctor.

Since UTIs are bacterial infections, antibiotics are mainly used to treat these infections. Your doctor will give you antibiotics if there’s a need. You must strictly follow your physician’s advice and remember to take your medication on time. Don’t skip your medicine even if you feel better. You need to complete your antibiotic course to treat a bacterial infection fully; otherwise, the few remaining bacteria will spread again to cause repeat infections.

Drink plenty of water. Water helps dilute the urine, so you urinate more frequently. This helps to flush out the bacteria and other toxic waste from your body.

Medical and health experts are developing new methods to prevent urinary tract infections, including vaccines and immunity-boosting agents. 

Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections

The following tips can help you avoid UTIs:

  • Drink a lot of water and fresh juices.
  • Urinate as soon as you feel the need to.
  • Don’t make haste while urinating, and make sure you have emptied your bladder.
  • Wash and wipe yourself properly from front to back after urination.
  • Wash and cleanse your genitals before sexual intercourse.
  • Urinate after sex to flush out any bacteria that may have reached the urethra.
  • Wear cotton underwear and loosely-fit clothes to keep your genital area dry. Wearing tightly fit clothes and nylon underwear retains the moisture that is ideal for bacterial growth.
  • Avoid using scented hygiene products such as deodorants, powders, douches, and bath products, as they only increase irritation in the genital area.
  • Avoid using birth-control methods consisting of diaphragms, unlubricated condoms, or spermicidal jelly. Diaphragms can activate bacterial growth, whereas unlubricated condoms and spermicidal jelly can cause irritation in your urinary tract.

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