Urinary tract infections are infections that affect the urinary system. The urinary system is involved in the removal of urine from the body. A complete urinary tract consists of kidneys, ureters, urethra and bladder. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by microbes, bacteria being the common cause. However, some UTIs are caused by fungi and viruses but in rare cases. UTIs can affect the kidneys, vagina, urethra or bladder.
UTIs are more prevalent among women due to their anatomy. Females’ urethra is shorter than males, which exposes the bladder to bacteria. The proximity of women’s bladder to the anus and vagina–sources of bacteria increases the chances of women contracting UTIs. So, what are the symptoms of UTI, how can they be treated and what are the UTI prevention measures.
Here is what you need to know about urinary tract infections.
Signs and Symptoms of UTI
UTI symptoms depend on the part of the urinary tract that is infected. Therefore, the symptoms can be classified depending on the part of the urinary tract infected.
Lower Tract UTI Symptoms
The lower part of the urinary tract consists of the urethra and the bladders. Symptoms of lower tract UTI are:
- Burning sensation during urination
- Sensation of a not fully empty bladder after urinating
- Feeling the need to urinate frequently
- Sudden urge to urinate
- Urine leakage
- Bloody and cloudy urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- Feeling fatigue, shaky and pressure in the lower abdomen
Upper Tract UTI Symptoms
Upper tract UTIs affect the ureters and kidneys and can be life threatening if not treated on time. Symptoms of upper tract UTIs are similar to those of flu and they include:
- Chills and shivering
- Back and side pain
UTI symptoms are similar for both men and women. However, in addition to other UTI symptoms men and women can experience rectal pain and pelvic pain respectively, which are symptoms for lower tract UTIs.
How to Prevent UTIs
UTI infections can be avoided. There are many measures one can take to prevent the risk of having UTIs. They include:
- Drinking lots of water-6-8 glasses of water per day – This helps to flush out bacteria that can reside in the urethra.
- Urinating after sex – The urine washes away the bacteria.
- Not holding urine for extended periods – When the urge to urinate arises do not hold back.
- Washing the foreskin regularly if uncircumcised – You can have your young boys or babies circumcised or teach them how to wash the foreskin.
- Fully emptying the bladder when urinating
- Keeping the genitals clean and dry
- Cleaning the genitals before sex
- Wear breathable and loose-fitting clothes
- Wipe from front to back after emptying the bowel
UTIs can be cured and are treated depending on their causes. After running tests, a healthcare professional can prescribe either antibiotic for bacterial UTIs, antivirals for viral UTIs or antifungals for fungal UTIs, depending on the results.
Usually, lower tract UTIs are treated using oral antibiotics, while intravenous antibiotics are generally for upper tract urinary UTIs. UTI treatment course is typically meant to run for the shortest time possible to lower the risk of the bacteria developing resistance to the antibiotics.
Risks of Untreated UTI
There are risks of leaving UTIs untreated. UTIs are easy to treat in the initial stages before progressing to the upper urinary tract. Once in the upper tract, UTIs become difficult to treat and if left to spread into the blood can cause sepsis, which is life-threatening.