It’s estimated that 60% of women will experience a UTI at some point during their life – with about 20% experiencing a repeat infection.
What is a urinary tract infection?
Your urinary tract is the system that makes urine and carries it out of your body. It includes your bladder and kidneys and the tubes that connect them. When germs get into this system, they can cause an infection.
Most urinary tract infections(UTIs) are bladder infections. A bladder infection usually is not serious if it is treated right away. If you do not take care of a bladder infection, it can spread to your kidneys. A kidney infection is serious and can cause permanent damage.
Symptoms of UTIs
Some of the symptoms of UTIs include:
- wanting to urinate more often and urgently, if only a few drops
- burning pain or a ‘scalding’ sensation when urinating
- a feeling that the bladder is still full after urinating
- pain above the pubic bone
- blood in the urine.
- Urine that looks cloudy, or smells bad
UTIs can lead to kidney infections, and It can be serious
If infection reaches the kidneys, prompt medical attention is needed. In addition to the general symptoms, a person with a kidney infection can also experience:
- loin (lower abdominal) pain
- pain in the back.
Causes of UTIs
Urine is normally sterile, which means it doesn’t contain any bacteria, fungus or viruses. To infect the urinary system, a micro-organism usually has to enter through the urethra or, rarely, from the bloodstream. The most common culprit is a bacterium common to the digestive tract called Escherichia coli (E. coli). It is usually spread to the urethra from the anus.
Other micro-organisms, such as mycoplasma and chlamydia, can cause urethritis in both men and women. These micro-organisms are sexually transmitted so, when these infections are detected, both partners need medical treatment to avoid re-infection.
Risk factors for developing UTIs
Some people are at greater risk than others of developing UTIs. These include:
- women – sexually active women are vulnerable, in part because the urethra is only 4 cm long and bacteria have only this short distance to travel from the outside to the inside of the bladder
- people with urinary catheters – such as the critically ill, who can’t empty their own bladder
- people with diabetes – changes to the immune system make a person with diabetes more vulnerable to infection.
Seek medical attention for UTIs
It is important to seek medical attention if a bladder or kidney infection is suspected. Early treatment of urinary infection can help to prevent the infection spreading to the kidneys.
Infection that has spread from cystitis or pyelonephritis is a much more serious condition. Your doctor will test your urine to check which micro-organism is present. Urinary tract infections usually respond quickly and well to antibiotics.
Prevention of UTIs
Although not always backed up by clinical research, some women have found some suggestions useful in reducing their risk of developing urinary tract infections, including:
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids to flush the urinary system.
- Treat vaginal infections such as thrush or trichomonas quickly.
- Avoid using spermicide-containing products, particularly with a diaphragm contraceptive device.
- Practice good hygiene.
- Go to the toilet as soon as you feel the urge to urinate, rather than holding on.
- Wipe yourself from front to back (urethra to anus) after going to the toilet.
- Empty your bladder after sex.
Cranberries (usually as cranberry juice) have been used to prevent UTIs. Cranberries contain a substance that can prevent the E. coli bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract lining cells.
The secret lies here:
We know cranberry juice can be expensive, hence in Malaysia, I usually recommend my patients to take barley water. Yes, BARLEY! It’s cheap and effective.
How does it work?
Yes, you have heard that before. Drinking beer has always made you run to the loo a little more frequently than you generally do. Drinking barley water, on the other hand, also induces increased urination which means it flushes out the toxins in the body.
Barley water is hence a useful home remedy when you have a Urinary Tract Infection. Boil a tablespoon of barley seeds in a litre of water. Bring down the quantity to half and keep consuming barley water throughout the day.
Barley water also brings down the heat content in the body and prevents urine from stinking. This works in case of pregnant women or patients who are on hormone tablets.
Regular consumption of barley water cleanses your kidney and keeps it free of toxins. And, If you don’t enjoy the bland taste, then you could add a dash of lime and sugar to the drink.
If you are experiencing symptoms of UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) please do not hesitate to make an appointment to see Dr. Gan here.