Urinary system comprises of the kidney, ureter, bladder, and urethra. Urine is formed in the kidneys, passes through the ureter gets collected in the bladder and finally exits through the urethra. An infection in any part of the urinary system is called urinary tract infection (UTI). It generally involves the urethra and the bladder, but in severe cases, it can even involve the kidneys.
UTI is a very common infection, affecting over 10 million people per year in India. it is important to know that the likelihood of developing UTI is eight times more in women than men. Almost 40-50% of women will suffer at least one episode of UTI in their lifetime.
Risk Factors for UTI
- Shorter urethra in women as compared to men make it easier for the bacteria to reach the bladder.
- Use of diaphragms and spermicidal agents for birth control.
- Sexually active women. Having different sexual partners.
- A decline in estrogen after menopause, reduces the protective lactobacilli in the vaginal microflora making women vulnerable to infection.
Other risk factors:
- Urinary tract abnormalities prevent the urine to leave the body normally, causing urine to back up in the urethra thus predisposing UTIs.
- People with enlarged prostate or kidney stones trap urine in the bladder.
- Diabetes mellitus and immunosuppression reduce body’s defense against pathogens.
- Hospitalized people, chronically catheterized patients (people using a catheter to urinate), patients with neurological problems and paralysis, conditions that make urination difficult to control.
- A recent examination of the urinary tract with medical instruments, or recent urinary surgery.
What causes UTI?
Most common bacteria for UTI is Escherichia coli or E coli. This bacteria is a normal resident of the colon perianal area. After sexual intercourse or improper cleaning after defecation, the bacteria can spread from their normal habitat to the opening of the urethra. Under normal circumstances, the act of urination flushes the bacteria out of the urethra. However, if the load of bacteria is very high, the natural defense of the body is low, or due to obstruction the urination is improper, the bacteria can spread upwards to the bladder and even to the kidney causing severe infection.
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water, ensures frequent urination allowing bacteria to be flushed from the urinary tract before an infection can begin.
- Wiping from front to back after urination and bowel movement prevents bacteria from spreading from the anal region to the vagina and urethra.
- Avoid wearing tight undergarments as it may promote the spread of bacteria.
- Avoid feminine products like deodorant sprays, douches, and powders in the genital area as they can irritate the urethra.
- Avoid use of diaphragms, unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms for birth control.
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