What is UTI?
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is one of the most common bacterial infections that are prevalent among people of all ages. Across the globe, they affect more than 80-100 million people per year. Women and infants are generally more vulnerable to such infections; the condition is relatively rare in boys and young men. Besides causing a lot of discomfort and pain, UTI can lead to serious damage to various organs and can even turn out to be fatal, if left untreated.
The urinary system in human body consists of kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. The functions of urinary system include regulation of blood pressure, blood volume, electrolytes, metabolites, ph level of blood and also to eliminate wastes from the body. In a healthy human body, kidneys filter urea from the blood stream which then along with water and other waste products forms urine. Two thin tubes known as Ureters then carry this urine from kidneys to the bladder. The bladder is a balloon like muscular organ which stores urine until it gets full and swells up, giving us the signal for nature’s call. Thereafter we expel urine through the opening called urethra. Male and female bodies have similar urinary system and the only difference in between the two, is in the length of urethra; which is shorter in females.
When the bacteria (mostly found to be Escherichia coli or E.Coli) residing in the gut get into the urine and enter the urinary tract through urethra, it triggers what we call as a Urinary Tract Infection. In few rare cases these infections can be caused by some fungi and virus too. Over the years, UTI’s have increasingly been health nemesis across the world and to make it worse these infections spread rapidly within the body.
It is important to know that a few groups of individuals have higher vulnerability towards these infections such as:
- Women; Women’s anatomy makes it easier for the bacteria of the rectum to contaminate the urine simply by having sex, taking a lot of baths, or wearing tight-fitting pants. The shorter length of their urethra further facilitates these bacteria with an easy and rapid access into the bladder. No wonder almost 20 % of the women in United States are found to be struggling with UTIs, which are very likely to reoccur also.
- Pregnant women: they also have higher chances getting urinary infections; which may cause serious complications in their pregnancy.
- Infants & toddlers: Children under the age of 2 years are also more likely to develop these infections.
- Elderly people: Specifically those who are bed ridden are found to be more susceptible towards such infections.
- Increased or longer use of catheters can also result in the onset of UTIs.
- Patients of Diabetes and hypertension also have higher probability of developing Urinary Tract infections.
Types of UTI:
When the bacteria gets the entry through Urethra, they start colonizing and escalating up through the urinary tract, towards the bladder, then to ureters and ultimately spreading over to the kidneys.
On the basis of the spread of these bacteria, UTI’s are broadly classified into two categories namely; Upper Urinary Tract Infections and Lower Upper Urinary Tract Infections.
The bladder and urethra together form the lower part of the Urinary tract. Any infection in this part of the system is known as Lower Urinary Tract Infections.
Kidneys along with Ureters form upper part of the urinary system form the upper part, hence any infection that affects these organs is known as Upper Urinary Tract Infection.
In general, the upper UTI’s are more severe and complicated, while the lower UTI’s can be easily cured with proper dosage of antibiotics. That is why, it is important to know the early signs and symptoms of urinary tract infections so that they can be identified and treated at an early stage, before they turn more intricate.
Here we enlist a few of these early signs to easily spot UTIs at their onset.
- Dysuria: discomfort, pain and burning sensation while urinating.
- Urinary incontinence may also indicate occurrence of UTIs. At times you have to deal with accidental leaks, while there may also be times when albeit the strong urge to urinate, you pass very little amount of urine.
- The frequency of your washroom visits may substantially increase. In general if you are going to the loo more than 8 times in a day (including a few times in between the sleep), it can be a sign of the having UTIs.
- The color of the urine may become pinkish or red due the presence of blood in it.
- Urine may also turn cloudy due to the presence of whitish fragments in it.
- A sudden change in the odour (foul smell) of the urine without having any changes in diet/ medication can also be an indication of UTIs.
- Fatigue, nausea, vomiting and shaking chills indicate upper UTIs which can be a serious health condition.
- UTIs also cause a lot of pain and pressure in the lower abdomen. While men generally feel this pain near the rectum; women experience it in their pelvic region.
- High fever is one of the symptoms that indicate much more severe Urinary Tract Infection. It is a sign that the infection has spread over to the kidneys or into the blood stream.
- In males, UTIs can also cause soreness at the tip of the penis and this may also result in inflammation of prostate gland. Which further leads to pain in lower back, penis, testicles, anus and in the area between the scrotum.
- Among the infants there are no specific symptoms of such infections but you must get your baby checked for UTIs if you notice sudden increase in the morbidity accompanying unexplained fever, poor feeding patterns, vomiting, diarrhoea and change in the urination pattern.
- Among the elderly people, poor appetite, lethargy, changes in mental fitness and hypothermia/ fever can be an indicator of Urinary infections.
Prevention from UTI:
Going by these symptoms if you suspect any infection in your urinary tract, visit your health care provider at the earliest. A simple examination including urine and blood tests is all you need to go through to confirm whether you have any urinary tract infection or not. Treatment of these infections at an early stage is simpler and easier and so is its prevention.
Just being a little cautious of a few lifestyle habits can save you from all the misery and discomfort of such infections.
- Maintain proper hygiene.
- Avoid wiping from back to front after the bowel movements.
- Use the washroom right after having sex.
- Wash the foreskin frequently.
- Avoid using Douches.
After respiratory infections, Urinary tract infections are the second most common cause of doctor’s visits across the globe. So there is nothing to be hesitant about. Pay attention to your body signals and treat the infections before they may cause serious damages and turn life threatening.
Stay Aware…!! Stay Healthy…!!
Aafiya is a health and wellness enthusiast. She utilizes her spare time to contribute insightful articles around day to day lifestyle challenges and their remedies, that all can relate to.
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