A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in either the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra and is usually caused by bacteria that are normally found in the bowel. UTIs are more common in women due to their shorter urethra with up to half suffering at least once in their lifetime.

The bacteria responsible for most UTIs (E.coli), have sticky fingerlike projections (similar to Velcro) that grab onto the lining of the bladder and can work their way up to the kidneys.

SYMPTOMS

  • Strong and frequent urges to urinate, but only a few drops are passed
  • Burning or prickly feeling when urinating
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Urine has a strong odour and may be cloudy or bloody

PEOPLE MOST AT RISK

  • Women – especially those that are sexually active or menopausal
  • Diabetics – bacteria thrives in urine containing high sugar levels
  • People needing a urinary catheter (a tube inserted into the urethra to drain urine from the bladder)
  • Men with prostate problems

PRACTICAL TIPS

  • The best treatment is prevention
  • Drink plenty of water to continuously flush the urinary tract
  • Urinate when you get the urge
  • When using the toilet wipe from front to back
  • Wash the genitals before intercourse
  • Urinate immediately after intercourse
  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks
  • Cranberry juice or tablets contain a substance that coats the bacteria and prevents them from sticking to the urinary tract
  • Probiotics may improve the health of the urinary tract
  • Urinary alkalinisers (eg Ural) reduce burning and discomfort and slow bacterial growth
  • Antibiotics may be required

WARNINGS

  • Kidney infections can lead to permanent kidney damage if not treated quickly, so watch for symptoms such as fever or pain in your back or side.
  • Persistent UTIs may require long term low dose antibiotics, which can contribute to other problems like diarrhoea and vaginal thrush.
  • Cranberry juice is very high in sugar so diabetics must closely monitor their blood sugar levels.

 

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