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It’s often misconceived that only women are susceptible to UTIs. But men can also get UTIs. Yes! Women are more prone to infecting their urinary tract as compared to men. Research shows that 1 out of 2 women has a chance of getting a UTI once in a lifetime at least. And only 1 in 10 men may get UTIs.

 

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) – Everything You Need To Know

It’s often misconceived that only women are susceptible to UTIs. But men can also get UTIs. Yes! Women are more prone to infecting their urinary tract as compared to men. Research shows that 1 out of 2 women has a chance of getting a UTI once in a lifetime at least. And only 1 in 10 men may get UTIs.

Now you may ask what exactly is UTI?? Here is a complete guide about Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). In this article, you will learn what is UTI, its causes, symptoms, preventions, and treatments in detail.

UTIs medical supply
Photo by Testalize. me on Unsplash

 

What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection caused by microscopic organisms. These are called microbes. They are basically really tiny specs of bacteria that may infect your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. These all are organs that make your urinary tract.

In some cases, UTIs can also be caused by fungi and viruses. Although UTIs are pretty common, especially in women, they can become very severe and chronic if not taken care of at the right time.

Most UTIs usually affect the lower urinary tract which consists of the urethra and the bladder.  However, in some rare and more severe cases, a UTI may also affect the upper urinary tract that involves the kidneys and ureters. Such infections may become life-threatening. As the chances of the bacteria moving from the infected kidney into the blood get escalated. This condition is known as urosepsis. It can cause severely low blood pressure, sudden shock, and even death in some cases.

Causes of UTIs

There are so many factors that might allow the bacteria to enter the urinary tract. The bacteria irritate the urinary tract by affecting the urination process. It hinders the emptying of the bladder. Urine is acidic, the more it stays in the bladder the more it irritates the surrounding. Hence causing UTIs.

These are some common factors that lead to UTIs. These are:

  • Kidney stones
  • A previous UTI
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Holding the urine in for a long period of time
  • Having problems emptying the bladder
  • Ill immune system
  • Use of tampons or spermicides
  • Heavy use of antibiotics
  • Diabetes
  • The blocked flow of urine
  • Having prolonged urinary catheter
  • Due to the use of some contraception
  • Immobility for a long period
  • Frequent sexual intercourse with
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause

 

Urethra in Women

The size and location of the urethra increase the chances of women developing a UTI. There are types of bacteria that naturally occur around the vagina and anus. The bacteria can easily reach the bladder and cause an infection. The urethra in a women’s body is shorter than in a man. This means, that the bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to get to the bladder

Non-lubricated condoms

Condoms are important to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). However, a non-lubricated condom increases the friction. It may also irritate the skin of women during sexual intercourse increases the risk of UTIs.

It’s advisable to use lubricated condoms or water-based lubricants to help prevent skin irritation and friction during intercourse.

Chronic UTIs

Most urinary tract infections will go away after the treatment. However, chronic UTIs either keep recurring or doesn’t go away completely. Usually, recurring UTIs are the most common among chronic UTIs.

UTIs during pregnancy

It is very common for pregnant women to develop a UTI. A growing fetus puts a lot of pressure on the urinary tract. This may allow the bacteria to get trapped inside, cause the urine to leak, or spread further to the kidneys. A woman’s body is very prone to getting an infection during pregnancy. As the immune system is all focused on protecting the baby. Leaving the women susceptible to bacteria.

Urine in the pregnancy is very concentrated. This may also lead to irritation in the bladder and encourage bacteria to grow.

UTIs during pregnancy may lead to serious complications. It may cause high blood pressure and premature delivery.

Symptoms of UTIs

The symptoms of the urinary tract infection depend on the severity and location of the infected tract.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection

Lower Urinary Tract (urethra and bladder)

Upper Urinary Tract (kidneys)

– Burning sensation while urination

-Decreased urine quantity

-A frequent urge to urinate

-Funky smelling urine

-Urine with hints of blood

-Cloudy or bubbly urine

-Dark color urine (mustard, red, green, or brown)

-Rectal pain (in men)

-Pelvic pain (in women)

-Pain and pressure around the upper back and sides

-Fever or sudden chills (a sign that the infection may have reached your kidneys)

-Feeling drowsy

-Nausea

-Vomiting

 

How can you prevent UTIs?

There are several preventive measures that you can take to reduce the risk of catching a UTI.

  • Drink at least six to eight glasses of water daily
  • Urinate frequently and don’t hold your pee in for a long period of time
  • Avoid high caffeinated drinks as it may irritate the bladder
  • Urinate after sexual intercourse
  • Keep the genital area clean and hygienic
  • Avoid using random products on your genital as this may disturb the ph. levels
  • Avoid sitting in the bathtub for a long period
  • Use menstrual cups or sanitary pads
  • Allow the genitals to breathe and avoid wearing tight clothing at all times
  • Avoid using birth control that may use diaphragm or spermicide

Some studies have also shown that using vaginal probiotics or taking cranberry supplements may also act as a preventive measure to UTIs.

A man with a circumcised penis is less likely to develop a UTI as compared to a man who has not undergone circumcision.

Be sure to talk to your doctor first to get the right preventive measure for you. It is also advisable for individuals to contact their doctor if they notice any developing symptoms of a UTI.

UTI Diagnosis and Treatment

If you are doubtful that you may have a UTI based on your symptoms, it’s best to contact your doctor first and foremost.

Your doctor will evaluate the UTI based on your symptoms and will perform a physical examination. To confirm the presence and severity of the infection, your doctor will test your urine for microbes (bacteria). A large number of white blood cells in your urine indicate the presence of bacteria.

Your urine sample should be a “clean-catch”. To get a clean-catch sample, first, you have to wash your genitals and then collect the urine sample at the mid-flow, and not at the beginning of the urinary stream. This ensures a non-contaminated and clean sample without any bacteria or yeast from your genital. Your doctor can also explain to you how to get a clean sample. Your doctor will also ask for a urine culture to check if the infection is caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Urine cultures also help the doctor to choose the right treatment for you.

The Treatment

Like we already know that UTIs are commonly caused by microbes (bacteria). Antimicrobials or antibiotics are used to treat the infection.

However, the dosage depends on the symptoms and medical history of the infected individual. Like most antibiotics, it’s necessary to complete the full course of medication. This ensures that the infections get fully clear and there are no traces of bacteria left. Moreover, completing the medication course reduces the risk of antibiotic body resistance.

There are basically two types of UTIs you may contract

1. An uncomplicated UTI

It occurs in a person who is healthy otherwise and has a normal clear urinary tract. Such UTIs can be treated within 2-3 days with antibiotics.

2. A complicated UTI

 

This one occurs in a person who has a weaker immune system or is dealing with some kind of medical condition like diabetes, organ transplant, or pregnancy. Complicated UTIs are usually treated with different antibiotics which require a period of 1-2 weeks to clear out the infection.

If you are experience pelvic or abdominal pain, then your doctor will prescribe certain pain relief medications to alleviate the pain. You can also use a heating pad to relieve some pain. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, is so important. It will help to flush out all the bacteria from your bladder and keep your body well-hydrated.

Nonetheless, it is extremely important to properly treat urinary tract infections. If left untreated, the infection may reach the kidneys. Which might lead to much severe damage.

People who develop complicated or chronic UTIs may be advised to be admitted to a hospital to keep a close eye on the infection and the condition of the individual. The hospital staff will make sure that the person receives sufficient fluids and the right medication for the type of UTI contracted.

Recurring UTIs in Women

Women who have recurrent urinary tract infections are usually advised:

  • To take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual contact
  • A single, daily dose of an antibiotic for at least 6 months
  • A 2-to-3-day course of an antibiotic if symptoms reappear
  • Undergo vaginal estrogen therapy if they have already had menopause

 

Home remedies to prevent and treat UTI

You can try the following home remedies to prevent and treat UTIs:

  1. Staying hydrated.

Drinking lots of fluids and urinating frequently can help flush bacteria from the body. The more fluids you intake, the less concentrated your urine will be. The inflammation and the risk of UTIs will plummet instantly.  Keeping your body hydrated is not just good to reduce the risk of UTIs. It has a million other benefits for your body and mind.

  1. Drinking cranberry juice or cranberry supplements can prevent UTIs.

Cranberry does not treat an existing UTI. They contain compounds called proanthocyanidins that prevent E. coli (the bacteria) from sticking to the walls of the digestive and urinary tracts. The research found that 500 milligrams (mg) of cranberry extract taken daily for 6 months reduced the rate of UTI to the same extent as 100 mg of trimethoprim, an antibiotic, without posing a risk of antimicrobial resistance or super-infection in women with recurrent UTIs.

Cranberry supplements are twice as effective as cranberry juice. Cranberry extracts also contain anthocyanins and salicylic acid. This may have a painkilling and anti-inflammatory effect that can help alleviate UTI symptoms.

  1. Regular use of probiotics.

Our bodies keep changing from time to time. Similarly, even small changes in the bacterial balance of the genitourinary tract can increase the likelihood of colonization by organisms such as E. coli. Regular use of probiotics may help reduce the risk of UTIs, especially after a course of antibiotics.