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Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

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Ehikioya Hope
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The urinary tract system is one of the systems that our bodies use to get rid of waste product. Urinary Tract Infection is also known as UTI. Urinary Tract Infection is an infection in any part of the Urinary system (kidney, ureter, bladder, or Urethra).

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Urinary tract infection could affect the upper and lower urinary system. The upper urinary system involves the kidney (pyelonephritis) or Ureter ( Ureteritis), while the lower urinary system consists of the bladder (cystitis) or Urethra (Urethritis).

The UTIs obstruct the normal flow of Urine. Urine contains salts, toxins, and water that needs to be filtered out of the blood. The urine is moved out of the kidneys through the ureters e stored in the bladder.

When a person urinates, the urine (pee) goes to the bladder and goes out through the Urethra. In males, the urethra ends at the tip of the penis while the female urethra ends just above the vaginal opening.

Urinary Tract Infection is very common and can be easily treated. If UTI is not treated on time, it may spread to the kidney, causing more pain, illness, and sepsis. Sepsis is a severe medical condition in which the whole body is affected.

In terms of gender, Urinary Tract Infection affects both the male and female, but it is more common among females.

The female Urethra is shorter (around 4cm) and the bacterial need to travel a short distance to reach the bladder, so the organism causing it ascends faster. Moreover, the rate for Urinary tract infection for the boys is likely 2% while the girls 8%.

Causes of Urinary Tract Infection (UTIs)

There several causes of Urinary Tract Infection but the most common cause in our environment is BACTERIA.

The infection comes from outside through the urethra and also affects the bladder. And these bacteria are:

  1. Escherichia Coli Bacteria: Infection of the bladder (cystitis) is caused by a bacterium called Escherichia Coli (E.Coli). E. Coli is a common bacteria to cause UTIs, and it is commonly found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The gastrointestinal tract is an organ system within humans and other animals which takes in food, digests it to extract and absorb energy and nutrients and expels the remaining waste as feces.
  2. Gastrointestinal (GI) Bacteria: Infection of the urethra also occurs when the gastrointestinal bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra. Other bacterias like chlamydia and mycoplasma can also affect the Urethra.
  3. Sexual Intercourse: Bacteria entering the Urethra during intercourse (sex) can cause UTIs, especially if it is done frequently and with multiple or new partners.
  4. Urinary Catheter: This is a tube inserted into the body cavity to remove fluids for people who can’t urinate on their own. It has an increased risk of UTIs if it is not sterile.
  5. Leaking of the valve-like mechanism between the ureter and the bladder, allowing urine to flow backward from the bladder to the ureters, possibly reaching the kidney.
  6. Blockage: Kidney stones can cause blockage or can trap urine in the bladder, and it can increase the risk of UTIs.
  7. Suppressed Immune System: Diabetes and other diseases that impair the immune system. The immune system protects the body from pathogenic organisms, but if the immune system is affected, it can no longer protect the body from UTIs.
  8. Urine Retention: Urine contains salts, toxin, and water that needs to be filtered out of the blood. Retaining urine for too long allows the bacteria to flow backward and affects the ureters. Not emptying the bladder completely can also cause UTIs.
  9. Genetic predisposition: An inherited risk of developing a bladder infection.
  10. Poor personal hygiene: This is lack of cleanliness. People with poor personal hygiene are more likely to get UTI if they do not improve.
  11. Not staying hydrated: Not drinking enough water can cause UTI. Water helps to flush out bacteria from the system.
  12. Re-occurrence: Having previous UTIs can increase the chances of having another Urinary tract infection.

Some risk factors of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) that affect women:

UTI is common in women, and they experience more than one infection during their lifetime because of their short Urethra.

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  1. Birth Control: Women who use diaphragms or a contraceptive device( used to cover a cervix during intercourse) may be at a higher risk as well as using a spermicidal agent as a woman. Spermicide is a kind of birth control that has chemicals that stop sperm from reaching an egg.
  2. An abnormal connection (fistula) between the vagina and the bladder or the intestine and the bladder.
  3. Women that wipes from back to front That is women who, clean from the anus to the vagina after toileting is at risk of having UTIs.
  4. Pregnant women that hold or retain their urine can further increase the risk of UTIs.
  5. Menopause: A reduction in circulating estrogen causes changes in the Urinary tract that makes the infection more exposed to the body. Estrogens are sex hormones that help in the growth and development of female secondary sexual characteristics such as the regulation of the menstrual cycle and reproductive system.

Some risk factors that impede the free flow of urine for men are:

  1. Posterior Urethral Valve (PUV): This is an obstructing membrane in the posterior male urethra as a result of abnormal in utero development. It is the most common cause of bladder outlet obstruction in male.
  2. Benign Prostate Enlargement: Prostate enlargement is common to men as they get older. Enlargement of the prostate gland can choke off the bladder neck, which stops the free flow of urine. It isn’t entirely clear what causes the prostate to enlarge. However, it might be due to changes in the balance of sex hormones as men grow older.
  3. Urethral Stricture: This is blockage of the spongy urethra, thereby obstructing the free flow of urine. This causes the bacteria to affect the urethra.
  4. Cancer of the prostate: cancer of the prostate also leads to UTI.

Symptoms Of Urinary Tract Infection UTIs

Urinary Tract Infection

  1. Frequent Urination: Frequent Urination is referred to as having an overactive bladder. Urologist (doctors that specialize in the urinary system) consider going to urinate more than 8 times in 24 hours to be frequent urination.
  2. Painful Urination (Dysuria): Dysuria is the medical term for painful urination. Painful urination is a common symptom of UTIs as a result of a bacterial infection. It is described as pain, burning or discomfort during urination. It can also be due to the inflammation of the urinary tract.
  3. Blood in the urine (Haematuria): Blood in the urine can be seen with a microscope. It can be from light pink to deep red with clots in appearance.
  4. For Pyelonephritis and Ureteritis renal angle pain and tenderness. More pains are felt when the doctor presses at the site from behind.
  5. Pelvic Pain: A pelvic is a funnel-shaped cavity; in women, such cavity is in the kidney into which urine passes towards the ureter.

Other Symptoms Includes

  1. Vomiting
  2. Fever
  3. Poor feeding/ poor weight gain
  4. Malaise
  5. Lethargy
  6. Irritation or fussiness of urine
  7. A feeling of not emptying your bladder completely.

Treatment Options For Urinary Tract Infection UTI

Once the bacteria have entered the urethra, the body tries to fight it off, but sometimes the human system cannot fight it all. The bacteria tend to multiply and cause an infection.

When there is a confirmation of an infection in the Urinary system through a simple urine sample, there is some treatment that can be given:

  1. Drink a lot of water to help flush out the infection.
  2. Heated pads: Inflammation and irritation from UTIs cause burning, pressure and pains around the pubic area so applying heated pad can help. The Heated pads are used to warm the parts of the body to relieve discomfort. Types of Heated pads include electric, chemical and hot water bottles, and it should be applied for not more than 20 minutes for the best result.
  3. Take antibiotics for 3-7 days or as the doctor has prescribed the drugs. Some common antibiotics are Trimethoprim/ sulfamethoxazole(Bactrim, Septra), Fosfomycin (Monurol), amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, amoxicillin, erythromycin, and penicillin are considered safe for pregnant women.
  4. Always have warm baths. Don’t make use of soap or perfumed product because it can irritate the bladder.

Prevention of Urinary Tract Infection UTI

The way the body is designed makes it difficult to get a bacterial Urinary tract infection. Since bacteria are gotten from the human environment, the following are ways it can be prevented:

  1. Keep hydrated (water): Water helps dilute the urine in the body. The intake of water allows bacteria to be flushed from the Urinary tract before infection begins. Take up to 3 liters of water daily
  2. Urinating Frequently: This help to prevent accumulated bacteria from the urinary tract. Don’t hold your urine, empty your bladder as frequently as possible.
  3. Avoid substances with a high concentration of ammonia, such as alcohol that can irritate the bladder.
  4. Urinate immediately after sex: This usually helps clear the Urethra and keep it free from any form of bacteria. This is mostly applicable to men.
  5. After having and before having sex, clean the genital area because the act of sex can push bacteria into the Urethra.
  6. If someone has a catheter (a tube that drains urine from the bladder), it is very important that inserting the catheter should be done in a sterile or clean environment. The catheter/ instrument should be clean before insertion. A urinary catheter should not stay inserted for a long period of time.
  7. Women should always wipe from front to back after using the toilet instead of wiping from back to front. This lower the chances of faeces touching the urethra.
  8. Go for regular checkups and your doctor should be informed about any family history of kidney problems, diabetes or high blood pressure.
  9. Avoid sitting in the tub after shampoo or scented soap has been used. As a female, avoid deodorant sprays or scented feminine product in the genital area. his can irritate the urethra.
  10. Always change wet under wears as soon as possible to keep the area around the urethra dry. It is also advised to wear cotton underwears to prevent excessive heat to the genital area.
  11. Learn to wash the genital area with warm water before sex.

Conclusion

Urinary tract infection is one of the most common infection in the world. UTIs can be treated and should be treated well to avoid re-occurrence. This is a serious problem that can happen to anybody but mostly the women as the reason was given above.

Poor personal hygiene should not be an option. Learn to keep the environment clean to avoid bacteria of any kind that causes UTIs.

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