Fever, chills, severe back pain, nausea and vomiting are symptoms of infection severity and spread, warns Dr Anagha Chhatrapati.
Bacteria in any part of the urinary system can cause Urinary Tract Infections (UTI).
Bacteria that live in the vaginal, genital, and anal areas can easily cause UTI.
The risk of UTI is more during cold months, including monsoon and winter, because the bacteria thrives in humid weather.
What happens is the bacteria enters the urethra and travels to the bladder, causing an infection.
Although UTIs are more common in women, they can also affect men.
Men over the age of 50 are more likely to develop urinary infections.
The bacterium Escherichia coli causes UTI in older men and women.
However, instances of UTI are somewhat uncommon in men because men having longer urethras than women and the bacteria takes longer to travel to the bladder.
UTI can also affect children and is quite common both in children and babies.
Symptoms in men and women
- Blood in urine
- Burning and pain sensation or discomfort after urination
- Bed wetting
- Frequent trips to the bathroom
- Pain in lower belly
- Smelly urine
- Tendency to pass small amounts of urine, or slow urine
Both men and women can develop complications when the infection spreads to their upper urinary tract and kidneys.
Fever, chills, severe back pain, nausea, and vomiting are symptoms of infection severity and spread.
Lower urinary tract infections, as well as urethra and bladder infections, are the most infectious types of UTI, particularly in women.
Sexual activity can transfer germs that cause UTIs from other areas to the urethra, such as the vagina.
Symptoms in children
UTIs are fairly common in children.
They occur when bacteria (germs) infiltrate the bladder or kidneys.
A baby who has a UTI may have a fever, vomit, or be fussy. Older children may have a fever, peeing pain, a need to pee frequently, or lower belly pain.
Children who have UTIs should see a doctor as these infections will not go away on their own.
Antibiotics will be prescribed to help children recover.
But to ensure that antibiotics work, you must administer all prescribed doses — even if your child begins to feel better.
Warning signs and symptoms
Urinary tract infections do not always display symptoms, but when they do, they may include the following:
- Urge to urinate that is strong and persistent
- Urinating with a burning sensation
- Passing small amounts of urine on a regular basis
- The appearance of cloudy urine
- Urine that is red, bright pink, or cola-colored — this is an indication of blood in the urine
- Urine that smells strongly
- Pelvic pain in women, particularly in the centre of the pelvis and around the pubic bone
In older adults, UTIs may be overlooked or misdiagnosed as other conditions.
What causes UTIs?
In most cases, urinary tract infections occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and multiply in the bladder.
Although the urinary system is designed to keep such microscopic invaders out, these defenses do fail from time to time.
Bacteria may take hold and grow into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract if this occurs.
UTIs are most common in women and affect the bladder and urethra.
This type of UTI is typically caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a type of bacteria found in the GI tract.
Cystitis can be caused due to sexual activity. But you don’t have to be sexually active to get it.
Owing to the short distance between the urethra and the anus and the urethral opening to the bladder, all women are at risk of cystitis.
When GI bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra, this type of UTI occurs.
Furthermore, because the female urethra is so close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections like herpes, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and mycoplasma can cause urethritis.
How to diagnose UTI?
If you are concerned about a UTI, you should consult with your doctor.
A urine sample can be used to detect UTIs. A microscope is used to look for bacteria or white blood cells, which are signs of infection.
A urine culture may also be taken by your doctor. This is a test that detects and identifies bacteria and yeast in urine that may be the source of a UTI.
If you notice blood in your urine, you should contact your doctor right away.
A UTI can cause blood in the urine, but it can also be caused by another problem in the urinary tract.
If you have a fever and symptoms of a UTI, or if your symptoms persist despite treatment, you should see a doctor.
Additional tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan, may be required to examine the urinary tract.
UTIs are classified into two types: Simple and complicated.
Simple UTIs occur in healthy people with normal urinary tracts.
Complicated UTIs occur when the urinary tract is abnormal or when the bacteria causing the infection is resistant to many antibiotics.
Most women have simple UTIs, whereas men and children have more complicated UTIs.
UTI symptoms usually improve within a few days of starting antibiotics.
You do not need another urine culture to prove that the infection is gone if all UTI symptoms have resolved after the course of antibiotics has been completed.
If you have a complicated UTI, you may require a urine culture to demonstrate that the UTI is completely gone.
If your symptoms persist despite antibiotic treatment, you may require a longer course of antibiotics, a different antibiotic, or a different method of administration.
Between 20% and 40% of women who have one UTI will have another.
Men are less likely than women to develop a UTI in the first place. However, because bacteria tend to hide inside the prostate, if they get one, they are likely to get another.
If you get UTIs frequently (3 or more per year), you should see your doctor.
More tests (such as checking if the bladder empties) may be ordered by your doctor to determine the cause.
If you continue to have UTIs, a longer course of low-dose antibiotics or taking an antibiotic after sex may be beneficial.
Your health care provider may also arrange for self-testing methods that allow you to diagnose and treat UTIs at home.
Who is at a higher risk of contracting UTI?
UTI is more likely in people who do not drink enough water or fluids, are unable to completely empty their bladder, are diabetic, have abnormal narrowing of the urethra, have a history of UTI, or are taking medication that suppresses the immune system.
People who practise poor hygiene can develop UTI.
The use of birth control pills, as well as the use of scented products, can aggravate the problem of UTI.
UTI can occur in both men and women who have kidney stones, urinary tract blockages, or an enlarged prostate.
UTI can be contracted by men and women who frequently change sexual partners and engage in sexual activity with multiple partners.
Healthy foods to treat UTI
UTIs are typically caused by harmful bacteria. However, there are a variety of foods that can be consumed to reduce or avoid UTIs.
Cranberries, pomegranate juice, blueberries, unsweetened yoghurt with probiotics, leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, black tea, green tea, eggs.
Foods to avoid
Sweetened, artificially sweetened flavoured juices, caffeine-rich beverages, spicy foods, and highly acidic foods should be avoided by people who have had or have a tendency to get UTI.
A urinary tract infection can cause a wide range of symptoms, from mild discomfort while passing urine to full-fledged disease.
In severe cases, there may be increased urinary frequency, the sensation of incomplete evacuation, involuntary urine passage or incontinence, pain and burning while passing urine, pain in the lower abdomen, and fever with chills.
It is commonly associated with dark or muddy urine. The presence of blood or pus indicates that the infection is severe.
During the monsoon season, people are more likely to contract urinary tract infections.
Follow these simple tips to stay healthy:
- Drink plenty of oral fluids.
- Infection can increase due to retention or stasis of urine. Drinking a lot of fluids can help wash out the pathogens. They can’t increase in quantity. At least 3 litres water should be consumed per day. Simple trick is double the amount of water consumption at every meal.
- Do not hold urine for long time. Infrequent urination can also lead to back pressure changes in kidney. Holding urine can lead the germs multiply manifold.
- Practice safe sex. Pass urine after intercourse to wash off alkaline semen, which alters vaginal pH. Avoid using chemicals in private parts.
- Use dry and cotton undergarments.
- Wipe from front to back to avoid fecal germs contaminate urinary tract.
- Get treatment for vaginal infections if suffering from foul smelling and itchy vaginal discharge.
- Include probiotics in diet, including curd or supplements. Lactobacilli prevent growth of pathogenic bacteria in and around female genital tract.
- Avoid over hygienic activities like vaginal douching or cleaning with soapy solution from inside.
- It irritates the tract and kills protective germs making area more prone for infection.
- Including food rich in vitamins especially Vitamin C and zinc will help combat infection.
- Include citrus fruits and sprouts in diet regularly.
Dr Anagha Chhatrapati is consultant-gynaecology at Global Hospital, Mumbai.
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