A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is a health condition occurring in any section of the urinary system, mainly kidneys, bladder and/or urethra, whereby any of these parts show specific symptoms of illness. In general, almost 50% of women develop a UTI at some point in their lifetime. This means that fifty women out of one hundred will experience at least one episode of a UTI. For some women, infection can occur many times. Also, research indicates that women who are sexually active are more bound to get infected. It has also been shown that women are thirty times more likely than men to have UTIs.
In this context, how do you know when a woman has developed a UTI, how can she be successfully treated and, furthermore, how can the infection be prevented?
What are most common UTI symptoms?
Most symptoms are experienced when urinating. Strong indications of a UTI are having a painful and/or a burning sensation in the vaginal area or a recurrent and constant need to urinate, even though volume of discharged fluid might be small. Variations in aspect and color of urine and a strong smell are signs not to be dismissed. Cramps or intense pain in the lower part of abdomen might also be indicators. Some people may have fever at more advanced UTI stages.
What are known causes of UTI?
The main cause of UTI is presence and growth of bacteria in the urinary track system. Here are some situations that may occur:
- Bacteria can easily pass from anus to urethra and from there into inner urinary tract and give rise to infections. If an infection is not treated fast and well enough, even the kidneys can be severely affected.
- Sexual intercourse could cause UTI, because it sometimes allows bacteria into the urinary system.
- Excessive use of some intimate products, such as spermicides and sprays, as well as use of diaphragms and condoms can increase growth of bacteria.
- Keeping from emptying bladder can cause accumulation of bacteria. So, it is important to urinate as often as needed.
- Urinary incontinence, which especially affects post-menopausal and elderly people. This condition will make genital area damp which could generate UTI producing bacteria at times.
How can UTI be successfully treated?
Consult a doctor as soon as symptoms are detected. A urine sample should be tested to determine presence of UTI producing bacteria. Antibiotics will be immediately prescribed by your doctor when results indicate presence of infection. Also, medication will be recommended to alleviate pain. As usual, it is important to drink lots of fluids to allow for bacteria to be flushed out of urinary system.
What to do when UTI strikes again?
About twenty percent of women experience a second urinary tract infection. Some can even experience it several times and may even seem to have a genetic predisposition to suffer from UTI. Having had the infection previously during childhood, as well as having had a mother with history of UTI are considered as risk factors that may tend to increase the possibility to continuously suffer from this infection. Also, presence of UTI has been shown to increase with age, again affecting more women than men. Diabetes, sclerosis and pregnancy are some conditions that increase risk factors. Under medical prescriptions, taking antibiotics over a long period of time seems to help prevent recurrence of continuous UTI infections.
Keeping the genital area clean and dry can help in prevention of the infection. The old advice: “always wipe front-to-back” is totally valid. Drinking lots of fluids and emptying the bladder as often as needed will help maintain a good natural flushed system. As always, consult your doctor as soon as UTI symptoms arise and especially if they remain after treatment!