Urology and UTIs

By Mariann McKay

Urinary tract infections (water infections) are very common. They usually pass within a few days and are easily treated with antibiotics. These infections are often caused by bacteria that live in the digestive system (gut). Bacteria like Ecoli, lie around the back passage or anus after you have emptied your bowel (had a poo), which can travel to your urethra (the tube through which you pee) and into your bladder where it multiplies and causes an infection. Bacteria from other sources can also cause a urinary tract infection.

How common is urinary tract infections?

It is more common in females than males because of the much shorter urethra (the tube through which you pee) and the closeness of the opening to the anus (back passage). If the infection travels up to the ureters (tubes that connect the bladder to the kidneys), it is described as an upper urinary tract infection and can be more serious because the infection can spread to the bloodstream and cause permanent damage to the kidneys if not treated quickly. Some women suffer from repeated UTI (more than three episodes in one year), and this can be related to sexual intercourse. Urinary tract infections in men can happen as a result of an infection of the prostate rather than the bladder.

What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?

The symptoms of lower UTI include burning or stinging sensations when passing urine, passing urine more frequently than normal, being unable to hold your urine or experiencing a strong urge to pee, experiencing pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen or back, blood in the urine and a generally feeling unwell.

The symptoms of upper UTI include fever or high temperature of 38ᵒC (100ᵒF) or above, uncontrollable shivering, feeling sick (nausea), vomiting, diarrhea, and headache.

Older people (over 65) and people who have indwelling catheters, may only have symptoms of confusion or feel generally unwell. Some people may behave differently; for example, they may be agitated or confused, lose their appetites, or their diabetes control may become poor.

How are urinary tract infections treated?

Antibiotic treatment will be chosen on an individual basis depending on symptoms. Suitable painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen should be taken for pain relief with the advice of a pharmacist if you are taking any other medication.

If you're a women, your lifetime risk of getting a UTI may be as high as 1 in 2.

Your doctor should discuss the risks and benefits of antibiotics with you. Antibiotics are useful in treating bacterial infections, but we must be careful how we use them. This is because bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics and antibiotic treatment will become, and in some cases are, ineffective in treating infections. This is known as antimicrobial resistance, a growing problem because antibiotics are often prescribed when they are not needed.

Cranberry capsules may be more effective than juice due to the high-strength cranberry extract. Do avoid it if you take anti-clotting medication such as warfarin as this can interact with your medication preventing it from working effectively.

Always discuss with your doctor first before trying over the counter medication and remember to drink at least eight glasses of water per day to maintain your hydration and keep your bladder healthy.

For more advise or information please visit www.kidney.org.uk/, www.cobfoundation.org, www.bladderandbowelfoundation.org/, www.theurologyfoundation.org.

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