What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system. UTIs are often categorised based on the location of the infection:
- Urethritis — infection in the urethra
- Cystitis — infection in the bladder
- Pyelonephritis — infection in the kidneys
Although UTIs are generally harmless and resolve on their own, an infection in the kidneys could lead to serious health issues and kidney damage.
Symptoms of UTI largely depend on the type of infection. Symptoms include:
- Urethritis — painful urination
- Cystitis — lower abdominal pain, fever and blood in the urine (haematuria)
- Pyelonephritis — Fever, backaches, nausea and/or vomiting
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to check in with your urologist immediately. There are several quick and painless tests that can help determine if you have a UTI and the extent to which the infection has spread.
What causes UTIs?
UTIs are caused by bacteria, often those found in our faeces that get into the urinary tract. Some common things that increase the risk of contracting UTIs are:
- Having Sex
- Blockage in the urinary tract, such as kidney stones
- Conditions that might hinder the emptying of the bladder fully, such as an enlarged prostate in men
- Usage of urinary catheters
- A weakened immune system eg diabetes
- Not taking enough fluids
- Not voiding regularly or holding back toilet visits
- Not keeping the genital area clean and dry→ change to overwashing of genitalia
- Menopausal changes
What happens when you leave UTIs untreated?
Up to 42% of uncomplicated UTIs resolve without medical treatment and by adopting certain lifestyle changes such as drinking more water and urinating more frequently.
However, there are risks to leaving the condition untreated. Recurrent or frequent UTIs could be caused by an underlying or persistent infection or other underlying diseases.
Leaving the UTI untreated can also lead to serious medical problems, especially if the infection spreads to the kidney and bloodstream, of which the damage might be irreversible and might even lead to death.
How do medications fight UTI?
One of the main ways to treat UTIs is with the use of antibiotics. As most urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, the use of antibiotics helps kill the bacteria, which, in turn, cures the infection. It is important to take note that even though symptoms might disappear, one should complete the full course of antibiotics to fully eradicate the bacteria causing the UTI. Not completing the course can also result in the bacteria developing a resistance to the antibiotic. When this happens, treatment would be less effective if the same antibiotic were prescribed to you.
There are several ways to prevent UTIs, and most of them can be inculcated into our daily lives.
- Wipe your genital area thoroughly from the front and back after using the toilet
- Avoid overwashing of introitus, either with water and/or soap.
- Drink plenty of water. Pee regularly.
- For women, wash the skin around the vagina with water before and after sex
- Change diapers, pads or other forms of devices used in the genital area as soon as possible once they are soiled
Talk to your Urologist
You should consult a urologist if your UTI symptoms don’t go away, get worse, or recur after treatment. It is important to communicate both your desired outcomes and concerns with your urologist so that they can work with you on a treatment plan that best suits you.
Book an appointment with Dr Fiona Wu for a comprehensive diagnosis and personalised treatment plan.