In this week’s health column, we explore the prevalence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) among women and discuss strategies to reduce the risk of contracting this common ailment. UTIs are a frequent cause of gynecological consultations, with the infection primarily affecting the bladder and urethra, and occasionally spreading to the kidneys.
The female urethra’s shorter length compared to that of men makes it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder, predisposing women to a higher risk of UTIs. Bacteria can ascend from the skin, vagina, and anus into the urethra and bladder, causing infection.
Various factors can increase the likelihood of developing UTIs, such as frequent sexual activity, incomplete bladder emptying, and pre-existing conditions like diabetes. Pregnancy and menopause are also known to heighten the risk.
Symptoms of a UTI include a strong, urgent need to urinate, a burning sensation during urination, and discomfort in the lower abdomen or pelvis. Cloudy and odorous urine may also be present. If fever, chills, back pain, nausea, or vomiting accompany these symptoms, it may indicate a more severe infection that has spread to the kidneys and necessitates prompt treatment.
When a UTI is suspected, diagnostic tests are crucial for determining appropriate treatment. A simple urinalysis of a provided urine sample is typically the first step. Further testing may involve identifying the specific bacteria causing the infection and determining the most effective antibiotic.
If a severe kidney infection is suspected, additional blood and imaging tests may be required. UTI treatment is generally straightforward and effective, with antibiotic type, dosage, and duration tailored to the individual. Symptoms usually resolve within one to two days, but severe infections involving the kidneys may require hospitalization and injectable antibiotics.
To reduce the risk of UTIs, practice good genital hygiene by washing the area around the vagina and anus daily. After using the restroom, wiping from front to back can help prevent bacteria from spreading to the urethra. Additionally, try to empty the bladder as soon as the urge arises and before and after sexual activity. Drinking ample water can also help flush bacteria from the urinary system. If an infection is suspected, seek prompt testing and treatment.