The urinary tract is the body’s fluid excretion system. It removes waste and extra fluid that helps regulate blood volume, blood pressure and pH levels in the blood. It also controls levels of electrolytes and metabolites.
Urinary Tract Infection or UTI is an infection of one or more parts of the Urinary Structure in the body (viz) urethra, bladder, ureter, and kidneys. It is common to hear of women suffering from UTIs. Women have a shorter urethra that makes the entry and spread of microbes like fungi and bacteria easier. Other problems that could cause UTIs in women are weak bladder, the pelvic muscle getting stretched after childbirth and ageing.
UTIs in women affect the muscles and the nerves that restrict or release urine. One of the muscles is in the bladder pushing urine into the urethra. The other is the sphincter muscle which helps in passing urine. These muscles also keep the urinary tract in position. If for any reason, the bladder experiences a shift in position, it could cause UTI.
UTI seldom affects men. If it does, the chief cause could be through physical relationships. Other causes are stones in the urinary tract blocking the flow of urine or enlarged prostate in older men.
The following factors increase the risk of Urinary Tract Infection:
- Kidney stones
- Radiation therapy
- Certain medications
- Use of catheters
- Spinal cord injury
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection:
- Burning sensation
- Pain during urination
- Blood in the urine
- Cloudy urine
- Urine with an offensive odour
- Feeling like urinating but unable to
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Low-grade fever
Factors that aggravate a Urinary Tract Infection:
- Spicy food
- Caffeinated beverages
- Highly acidic fruits like oranges and lemons
Diagnostic tests that identify Urinary Tract Infection:
- Urodynamic Testing scrutinizes the lower urinary tract – the urethra, bladder, ureter and kidneys, checking how they function in the store and release of urine.
- Urinary Tract Imaging evaluates the urinary tract.
- Cystoscopy examines the urethra and the lining of the bladder.
- Ureteroscopy examines the ureter and the lining of the kidneys.
- Drink plenty of water, around 8-10 glasses a day
- Avoid holding in urine
- Avoid using scented products for intimate areas
- Include probiotics in regular diet
- Maintain good personal hygiene
- Ensure that toilets are well-sanitized
Urinary Tract Infection, once diagnosed, is treated with antibiotic medication. Depending on the intensity, the physician will decide the duration of treatment.
It is common to hear people suggest drinking lots of water and cranberry juice to cure UTIs. Fluids are only a support system, not the cure itself, once the infection sets in.