A urinary tract infection is an infection in any part of your urinary system including your kidneys, ureter, bladder and urethra. Research shows that 2 in 1 women are prone to develop a urinary tract infection or UTI in their lifetime. Women are more likely to get repeated bouts of UTI as compared to men as their urethra (the tube that brings urine from the bladder to the outside) is smaller in length and hence the bacteria can enter it more easily. Infections that are limited to the bladder are quite painful but if they persist, they may spread to the kidneys, which may have serious consequences. In our society, there are a great many taboos on anything deemed a ‘personal problem.’ What we may not realize is that in keeping hush about such serious issues, we are not only putting ourselves and other at a risk but also, we are creating an environment where our family and friends keep suffering in silence and feel ashamed about getting help.
UTIs are extremely common in women, especially those who use sanitary pads or tampons during periods, as they may aid in the spread of infection. Bacteria such as E. coli can very easily travel from the anus to the vagina if cleanliness is not maintained causing an infection called cystitis. Cystitis can be caused by sexual intercourse although it is not restricted to it. Many STDs such as herpes, gonorrhea, Chlamydia and mycoplasma, can cause urethritis (infection of the urethra). If these infections aren’t treated in time, they may spread to the kidneys, causing immense pain and further complications.
Although UTIs don’t have any distinct symptoms they are usually accompanied by a burning feeling when you urinate, frequent urge to urinate but less urine production. More serious symptoms include tenderness and pressure in your back or lower abdomen, turbid, brown or orange and foul smelling urine. Feeling tired or shaky accompanied by a high temperature or chills show sign that the infection may have spread to your kidneys. Certain type of birth controls may also encourage bacterial growth such as a use of diaphragms. Dr. Madiha Sadi from Ziauddin University says, ‘Women going through menopause should take extra care against the development of UTIs as low levels of estrogen in their bodies make you more susceptible to the infection.’
Most UTIs when treated in time cause no complications. However, if it is left unchecked it may cause complications such as chronic kidney infection, recurrent spells of infection and even sepsis which is life threatening.
The treatment is fairly simple including a course of antibiotics to kill the bacteria and increasing water intake to flush out any toxins released by the bacteria. A urine test is usually taken. Some helpful lifestyle modifications for bladder infections include urinating frequently, wearing loose cotton underwear and drinking cranberry juice. A heating pad can be soothing for the pain. The doctor may prescribe some ointments to be applied over the vagina to decrease pain while urinating. For a more severe infection antibiotics may need to be given intravenously at the hospital.