What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
UTI is the bacterial infection of the urinary tract and is one of the most common health concerns among adult women. Up to half of all women will experience a UTI sometime in their lives. For many women, the symptoms come and go. But for some women, the symptoms are ongoing and interfere with normal life. Any part of the urinary tract can become infected: urethra (the opening from where urine is conveyed out of the body), bladder (infection is called
cystitis), ureters and/or kidneys.
Why is it more common in females?
UTIs develop most commonly when bacteria multiply in the external genital area, then move up into the urinary tract.
Women get UTIs more often than men primarily due to the following risk factors:
- Female anatomy: A woman has a shorter urethra than a man does, which shortens the distance that bacteria must travel to reach the bladder.
- Sexual activity: Sexually active women tend to have more UTIs than do women who aren't sexually active. Having a new sexual partner also increases your risk.
- Certain types of birth control: Women who use diaphragms for birth control may be at higher risk, as well as women who use spermicidal agents.
- Menopause: After menopause, a decline in circulating estrogen causes changes in the urinary tract that make you more vulnerable to infection.
Signs and symptoms:
Urinary tract infections don't always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do they may include:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine.
- Urine that appears cloudy.
- Urine that appears red — a sign of blood in the urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- Pelvic pain, in women — especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone.
- A feeling of straining toward the end of urination
- A feeling of incomplete emptying of the bladder
- A need to urinate several times during the night
UTIs can be prevented with some easy health and hygiene practices. Here are some suggestions:
- Drink, drink and drink! The more liquids you take the faster you can flush out any bacteria. Hydrating fluids, such as water and fruit juice are best. A daily intake of 8 glasses of water is recommended.
- Urinate after intercourse to flush the urethra.
- Wipe from front to back to reduce movement of bacteria from the anus towards the urethra.
- Avoid products such as soaps, bubble baths and douches that irritate the urethra opening.
- When using condoms, use plenty of silicone or water-based lubricant to minimize friction that can irritate the urethral opening.
If you are already experiencing symptoms, always seek a medical advice. Infections that are treated earlier will cause you less discomfort and are easier to treat. Be sure to take all medications as directed, especially antibiotics. Even though symptoms may disappear within a day or so, it is important to take all your antibiotics because the infection may flare up again and become difficult to eliminate.