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Urinary Tract Infections (UTI): Ways to treat them

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Road trips had never been one of her favourite modes of transportation. However, there’s no flight from Calabar and Obudu, so she has to endure the rickety movement of the bus. She was so sure her skinny frame had received double the impact of every porthole and gallop their bus encountered especially on the Ugep road. The thought of seeing her grandma after a semester of strenuous school work was the only consolation she had throughout the journey.

Mika remembered how the driver had angrily pulled over, bringing their bus to halt right at the outskirts of town after series of pleas and some tongue lashing exchange from the passengers. All the passengers heaved a sigh of relief as they alighted in search of where to ease themselves.

It’s been a week after she squatted to pee on the grass and she’s not felt as comfortable as she used to down there anymore. Mika suspected she must have contracted an infection due to the discolouration of her urine, frequent itching and pain that came with the urge to pee. Just one more day, she’ll be back to the city where she could consult a gynaecologist about her vaginal health.

Infection describes the presence of microorganisms in large numbers capable of causing a potential threat to the wellbeing of the host. The urinary tract is responsible for the formation, storage, transportation and excretion of urine- one of the waste products of metabolism.

Therefore, Urinary Tract infection (UTI) also known as bladder infection is an alteration in the normal structure and function of the urinary organs due to the invasion and replication of microbes in these sterile organs. The urinary system consists of the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra.

Causes and Risk factors of Urinary Tract Infections

  1. Bacteria from the large intestine, like E. coli, can sometimes move from the anus and into the urethra. From there, they can travel up to the bladder and continue to spread into the kidneys to cause more infection, if left untreated. This is the reason doctors usually advice women in most cases, that they wipe from front to back after using the toilet.
  2. Due to their shorter urethras, females are more prone to contracting urinary tract infections than males. It takes lesser time for bacterial to travel into their bladders and spread to cause infection into other urinary organs, compared to males.
  3. Unsafe sex practices like avoidance of use of condoms, anal to vaginal sex, unprotected sex with multiple partners etc, can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract thereby predisposing one to several urinary infections.
  4. Immunosuppressed people with underlying health conditions like Hepatitis B, Diabetes mellitus, HIV/AIDS, Multiple sclerosis, etc are at higher risk of contracting Urinary Tract Infections. This is because their weakened immune system makes them less fit to fight off infections.
  5. Hormonal and positional changes of the urinary tract associated with pregnancy institute an immune suppressive state thus making women vulnerable to UTIs.
  6. Poor toilet hygiene and practices. For example, washing your rectal and vaginal area with soaps that irritate the skin, using dirty toilets, rinsing with unclean water etc.

READ: What Causes Vaginal Itching

Types of Urinary Tract Infections

Since the urinary tract is saturated by fluid medium, infection at one part of the tract can spread easily to other sites of the tract. An infection can happen in different parts of the urinary tract and each type has a different name, based on the following:

  •  Urinary tract infections could either be Upper urinary tract or lower urinary tract infections.

The upper urinary tract consists of the kidneys and its pelvis, and infections of this organ are termed pyelonephritis. It manifests as fever/ chills, nauseas, vomiting and pain in the anterior or posterior pubic area.

Infection of the lower urinary tract may involving the bladder- is called cystitis, Urethra of both males and females- is called Urethritis.

  • Based on the severity of infection, UTIs could be: Uncomplicated UTI, Complicated UTI and Recurrent UTI.

Uncomplicated UTI is prevalent in young females who are apparently well and having no abnormality with their urinary system. UTI is considered a complicated typeifit occurs in an individual with underlying medical condition such as HIV/AIDS , or functional/structural abnormality of the urinary tract such as gall stone, prostatic enlargement arising from prostatitis etc. Recurrent UTI is that which reappears after appropriate treatment and resolution of an earlier episode.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections


While infections in infants produce nonspecific symptoms (like vomiting, fever and failure to thrive), the case is not the same for adults. Specific symptoms of urinary tract infections in adults include:

  1. Pain often described as a burning feeling when passing urine. This is termed dysuria and it is mostly seen in the case of cystitis.
  2. Cloudy or bloody urine.
  3. A frequent or intense urge to pee even though it is in small quantity.
  4. Chills or fever exceeding 38°C is a sign that the infection may have reached the kidneys, as in the case of pyelonephritis.
  5. Inflammation or swelling of the prostate leading to obstruction of the urethra results in urinary retention; where the individual is unable to pass out urine.
  6. Vomiting, diarrhoea and pain in the lower abdomen or back, perirectal area and the testicles are typical of prostatitis.
  7. When intimacy becomes more painful and less pleasurable with your partner.

Laboratory tests and Diagnosis of UTIs


Consult a doctor if you suspect you have a urinary tract infection. You’ll be given a bottle to urinate in, which will serve as the sample to test for bacterial causing UTIs. Here are some of the tests your doctor would carry out before any diagnosis can be made:

  • Microscopy
  • Culture test
  • Gram staining and
  • Urological evaluations which are mostly done in the cases of recurrent urinary tract infections. Urological evaluations include MRI, CT scans, Cytoscopy and kidneys or bladder Ultrasound scan.

How to Treat Urinary Tract Infections

The treatment of Urinary Tract Infections is best guided by the knowledge of the causative agent/factor following the results gotten from cultures and tests. Also the immune state of the patient should be considered before treatment can commence because some drugs tend to further weaken the patient thereby prolonging the resolution of the infection.

Uncomplicated UTIs like bladder bacterial infections caused by some staph or strep species are generally self-limiting, but antibiotic treatments significantly shorten the duration of symptoms. With single dose therapy, infections can resolve within 2-3 days of treatment. Broad spectrum antibiotics such as amoxicillin, nitrofurantoin, and fluoroquinolones can be used to treat various resistant bacteria.

Complicated UTIs caused by hospital acquired bacteria (whether from infected catheters or even bed sheets), usually resolve at 14-21 days following treatment with aminoglycosides.

For recurrent UTIs, the antibiotic of choice should be administered at low doses for about 6months especially for men with prostitis.

Some natural remedies like ginger and garlic drink have proven effective against UTIs too.  You can read our post on Surprising Health Benefits of Ginger and Garlic.

Preventive measures against Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

There is the tendency of contracting another or the same kind of urinary tract infection even after treatment. So to guard against reoccurrence, here are some things you should do:

  1. Empty your bladder often as soon as you feel the need to pee and be sure you’ve completely emptied your bladder.
  2. Remember to stay hydrated; drink lots of water.
  3. Eat healthy. Choose yoghurt and fruits over carbonated drinks.
  4. Wipe from front to back after you use the toilet.
  5. Keep off from using feminine hygiene sprays, and scented bath products. They’ll only increase irritation.
  6. Cleanse your genital area before engaging in sexual activity.
  7. Ensure you urinate thereafter to flush any bacteria that may have entered your urethra during sex.
  8. Avoid the use of diaphragm, unlubricated condoms, or spermicidal jelly for birth control. While unlubricated condoms and spermicides can irritate your urinary tract, diaphragm favours bacterial growth; all of which can increase your chances of contracting an infection.
  9. Keep your genital area clean and dry by wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes. Tight jeans and nylon underwear can trap moisture, thus creating the perfect environment for bacteria growth.
  10. Buy new underwear and dispose old undies as often as every 2 to 3 months intervals.

Medical Disclaimer: KompleteCare™ aims to improve the quality of life for everyone with fact-based content about the nature of diseases, preventive care, behavioural health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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Eunice Archibong is a medical researcher, certfied content writer and a skilled proofreader. Her interests lie in health and fitness research.

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