Urinary tract infections

What is it?

The urinary tract can be infected by bacteria in two ways: By bacteria entering the kidneys from the blood and travelling down. By bacteria entering the urethra and travelling upward.

What are the causes?

UTIs are caused by bacteria getting into the bladder from the kidneys. The following predispose to UTIs: In small children, the use of diapers is a very common contributing factor. If the child passes stool that is not cleaned for a long time, the stool that contains bacteria can be a source of infection. This is particularly true in small girls as compared to boys as their urethra is shorter and can be infected easily. In older children improper cleaning can also be a cause. Wiping back to front pulls stool into the vaginal area from where it can travel up. Long intervals between urination can be another cause as this weakens the bladder muscles. Some urine is left in the bladder that can be a source of infections. In women who are sexually active bacteria may be transferred from the anal and vaginal area to the urethra and then the bladder. If water intake is low, urination will be less and bacteria that might have entered the bladder will have more time to multiply and grow leading to infections.

What are the symptoms?

Frequent urination with only small amounts of urine. Burning or pain when urinating. Urine that smells bad or is cloudy or at times contains blood. Diarrhoea and vomiting. Lower back pain. Fever with chills and shivering.

What is the treatment?

A sample of the urine is taken and analysed for the number of bacteria and white blood cells in it. A fresh sample of urine is taken. Usually the urine is collected in mid-stream and the container must not touch the genital organs. The sample is analysed soon after collection. A UTI infection is usually treated by the use of antibiotics such as nitrofurantoin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and certain penicillins such as amoxicillin. The urine culture can be repeated after 3-5 days to make sure that the antibiotic is working. The medicines should not be stopped till the infection is cleared completely.

What are the prevention?

The most important method of preventing such infections is to practice good personal hygiene. Always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement or urination and keep the skin around the anal region clean. Drinking plenty of fluids each day also helps in flushing the bacteria out of the urinary system. Empty the bladder as soon as the urge to urinate occurs. Taking of foods rich in Vitamin C such as amla, citrus fruits and juices helps to reduce the number of bacteria that might be harmful to the urinary tract.

What are the complications?

If an infection progresses it may lead to pyelonephritis or kidney infection resulting in scarring and damage to the kidney tissues and subsequent renal failure.

DoctorNDTV Team

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