Urinary tract infection or UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary system which includes the urethra, ureters, bladder and kidneys. Most UTIs are caused by bacteria, but some are caused by fungi and in rare cases by viruses.
This infection mostly involves the urethra and bladder in the lower urinary tract; however, it can involve the ureters and kidneys in the upper urinary tract. Untreated lower urinary tract infection can lead to an ascension of the infection to the upper urinary tract thereby worsening the severity. It is important to note that UTI is not a sexually transmitted infection, though sexual intercourse is a risk factor.
UTIs are very common outpatient infections that can affect both males and females of all ages. The incidence is equal in both sexes in the first year of life. It is more common in women than men because the length of the urethra in women or females is shorter. The incidence of this infection is low in men below the age of 50 and if it occurs the man is likely to be with low immunity, uncircumcised or with a structural anomaly.
Any activity that can introduce bacteria or any microbe into the urinary tract is a risk factor. The following are examples of risk factors.
SEXUAL INTERCOURSE: it is easy for microbes to be introduced into the urethra as the urethral opening is very close to the vagina in women because of the shorter urethra. This can also occur in men during sex, but the infection is less likely to ascend due to the longer urethra.
GENDER: Females are at more risk of developing this infection due to their anatomy, it should also be noted that the anus is near the urethral opening, therefore it is easy for bacteria from faeces to get introduced into the urethra.
PREGNANCY: Some combinations of factors increase the risk of UTI in pregnancy. During labour, there is an increased chance of bacteria getting into the urethra.
OTHERS: Diseases or conditions which lower the immune system like diabetes, cancers, structural anomalies predispose an individual to UTI, use of catheters, uncircumcised male.
● Burning sensation with urination
● Increase in frequency of urination (though only a little urine comes out)
● Pain in the lower abdomen or back
● Inability to hold urine (loss of bladder control)
● Foul-smelling urine
● On rare occasions, visible blood or pus in the urine
In very severe cases with upper urinary tract infection, the following may occur:
● Chills and rigour
● Flank pain
The following may help in preventing UTIs:
● Emptying the bladder once there is an urge to urinate.
● Wipe from front to back after using the toilet, especially for females.
● Drinking lots of water.
● Avoid feminine wash and products.
● Avoid douching.
● Clean the genital area with water before and after sexual intercourse
● Empty the bladder after sexual intercourse
● Keep the genital area dry and clean by wearing clean cotton underwear.
● Avoid the use of catheters except it is needed.
It is important to visit a doctor when you experience any of the above symptoms, as this enables the medical personnel to carry out laboratory tests like urinalysis and urine MCS to determine the type and severity of the infection. Antibiotics are usually given to the patient, depending on the severity of the infection while awaiting test results.
Dr Adeiye Adejumoke C