Urinary tract infection (UTI)
The urinary tract is responsible for producing and storing urine, a waste product of the body. Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria and the infection can affect different parts of the urinary tract, such as the bladder, kidneys and urethra.
Urinary tract infections are more commonly found in females than males.
Causes of urinary tract infections in women
There are many possible causes of urinary tract infections in women, including:
- Wiping from the back to the front after going to the toilet: this causes bacteria to get into the urethra, increasing the risk of infection; it is always advisable to wipe from the front to the back to reduce the risk of infection.
- Sexual intercourse: this can cause bacteria from the vagina to be spread into the urethra.
- Waiting to urinate: waiting to urinate can increase the risk of infection, as bacteria can reproduce while they are inside the bladder.
- Using a diaphragm as a form of contraception: using spermicide can also increase the risk.
- Being unable to empty the bladder fully: some conditions, including kidney stones, make it difficult for the bladder to empty completely.
- Menopause: the levels of oestrogen in the body decrease after the menopause and changes occur in the vagina, which may increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
What are the symptoms and signs of a urinary tract infection?
Signs to look out for include:
- Pain during urination.
- A need to pass urine frequently.
- Stinging sensation at time of urination.
- Fever and generally feeling unwell.
- Pressure in the lower abdomen.
- Cloudy or unpleasant smelling urine.
Diagnosing a urinary tract infection
If you suffer with the signs of a urinary tract infection you should arrange to see a doctor. You will be asked by your doctor to provide a sample of urine (this involves urinating into a small cup, which will be sent for analysis to check for signs of infection). Your doctor may give you a special cloth to wipe the outer lips of your vagina prior to urinating.
Treating a urinary tract infection
Antibiotics are employed to remedy urinary tract infections. The doctor will explain the dosage to you and you must make sure to complete the course of antibiotics, even if you stop experiencing symptoms. If you are suffering with a urinary tract infection but do not have it treated, it can harm other areas of your body. If you are pregnant and you have symptoms associated with a urinary tract infection you should arrange to see your doctor as soon as possible. If not a UTI can cause problems during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, and bring about premature labour.
Preventing a urinary tract infection?
It may not be possible to prevent a urinary tract infection. However, there ways you can try to reduce the risk, including:
- Urinating when you get the urge; try not to wait to go to the toilet if you need to pass urine.
- Drink plenty of water during the day and after sexual intercourse.
- Avoid using feminine hygiene sprays.
- Clean your genital areas every day and always wipe from the front to the back after going to the toilet.
- Try to wear cotton underwear, rather than synthetic materials.