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Urinary tract infections (UTI)- diagnosis and treatment in Kenya

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is the infection of the urinary tract or system. The urinary system comprises the kidneys, bladder, urethra, and ureters. When there is an infection in any or all of these parts, one is said to have a urinary tract infection. It is common to both males and females, and some of its symptoms are common to both genders.

Urinary tract infections
Bacterial cystitis, illustration. Source: Getty Images.

Urinary tract infection is a common condition among many people. Research shows that about 8.1 million people visit the doctor every year with UTI problems. Understanding what UTI entails is the best way to cure and prevent it in the future. Discover more information on UTI infections and how to handle the condition.

Overview of urinary tract infections

As mentioned earlier, urinary tract infection is the multiplication of bacteria in the parts that make up the urinary tract, thus causing an infection. One is said to have a UTI if all or some of these parts are affected.  Although there are many causes of UTI infections, the most common factors that determine the risk of infection are age, health conditions, and hygiene habits. Gender is also a risk factor in which case UTI in women is more common than in men.

There are many methods used to diagnose UTI, with the most common one being urinalysis. This is a urine test done to determine presence of bacteria in the urine. Treatment of UTI is done through use of antibiotics.

Symptoms and causes

Ideally, urinary tract infections occur when bacteria get into the urinary system and start to grow. These bacteria originally come from the urethra as urine leaves the body and moves upwards to the rest of the urinary system, thus causing an infection.

The most common bacteria that causes UTIs is E. coli, which lives around the anus and bowel. The most common reasons that move the bacteria up to the rest of the urinary tract are sexual intercourse and improper wiping. When you urinate, you flush out the bacteria from your system.

However, if the bacteria have already multiplied, it is impossible to flush them out by urinating, which is when they cause the infection. If left untreated, the infection can move up to the kidney, causing a kidney infection.

Factors that increase your risk of getting A UTI Are:

  • Conditions that make it hard for you to completely empty your bladder
  • Kidney stones
  • Having a weak immune system
  • Pregnancy
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Previous history of UTI
  • Someone born with abnormal urinary structures
  • Age
  • Sexually active women
  • Women you use a diaphragm for birth control 
  • Patients using catheters, especially for a prolonged time

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections

UTI symptoms may differ based on age and gender. Nevertheless, some of the most common signs of UTI in women and men include:

  • Burning sensation or pain when you pee (dysuria)
  • A sudden need to pee
  • Having blood in your urine
  • Lower tummy pain or back pain
  • Need to pee more often than usual
  • Bad-smelling and cloudy urine
  • Mild fever and feeling of being unwell

Symptoms that you experience when the UTI has progressed to the kidney are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the back or side
  • High fever

Diagnosis and tests

The first method of diagnosing a UTI is using the symptoms. After you tell your doctor the symptoms you have, they can then take a urine test to determine the presence of red blood cells, white blood cells, and bacteria in the urine.

In case your urinary tract infections are reoccurring, the doctor may recommend further testing to determine their cause. Some of these tests that the doctor may recommend are:

  1. Urodynamics– this is a test to determine how the urinary system stores and releases urine.
  2. Diagnostic imaging– this is the use of MRI and CT scans, X-rays, radiation tracking, and ultrasounds to study the urinary tract.
  3. Cystoscopy– this is a procedure done by inserting a long thin tube through the urethra to study the urethra and bladder infections using camera lenses.

The results you get after the diagnosis determine the next step take for UTI treatment.

Management and treatment

Antibiotics are the most common form of treatment for both simple and complicated urinary tract infections. In some cases, your doctor will administer pain killers to manage the pain. The type of antibiotics offered and the time when you take them may differ based on the extent of your UTI.

For instance, females at risk of female infections or have urinary tract abnormalities may take five to seven days of antibiotics. On the other hand, UTI in men whose prostate is also affected may need to take the antibiotics for four weeks or more.

More often than not, UTI symptoms subside after about two days of taking the antibiotics. However, continue taking the drugs until you complete the dose, even if you get better after a few days.

When can you be hospitalized for UTI?

  • When you have other diseases that compromise your immunity
  • When you are pregnant
  • When you are using a catheter
  • Have extreme cases of nausea and vomiting
  • Have had previous cases of kidney stones
  • Did not get better after the dose of antibiotics

Prevention of UTI

To help reduce your risk of having a UTI, you should:

  1. Wipe from front to back– this goes especially to women, who are advised to wipe from front to back after urinating. This helps prevent the bacteria on the anus from spreading to the vaginal and urethra.
  2. Always pee after sexual intercourse– peeing after sexual intercourse helps flush out bacteria that may have migrated from the anus to the vagina during sex.
  3. Change your form of birth control– birth control methods such as diaphragms or spermicide-treated condoms put you at risk of having a UTI. Change these methods and look for others that do not have such effects.
  4. Drink plenty of fluids– drinking a lot of water will help dilute your urine and flush out bacteria from which they cause an infection.

Outlook/ Prognosis

As mentioned earlier, urinary tract infections respond immediately to treatment. If you take a right antibiotic medication, your symptoms subside even within two or three days.

In case your symptoms persist even after taking the antibiotic dose, the doctor may do some tests to determine if you have an antibiotic-resistant infection. If this is the case, you may need intravenous antibiotics or other alternative treatments.

Living With

Visit your doctor if you have any of the symptoms above to test whether you have a urinary tract infection. If you do not get better even after treatment, it is necessary to inform the doctor for further diagnosis.

Other symptoms that should make you contact a doctor immediately include back pain, fever, and vomiting. Do not delay treatment as this may spread the infection to other areas such as the kidneys, which may be more complicated to treat.

Frequently asked questions urinary tract infections

How do you know if you have a urine infection?

You can tell whether you have a urine infection by checking if you have the common symptoms of UTI. These symptoms are burning sensation and pain when you pee, cloudy and bad-smelling urine, frequent urge to pee, and blood in the urine. If you have all or some of these symptoms, the chances are high that you have a UTI.

What are the main causes of urinary tract infections?

UTI is caused when bacteria from the urine or anus move up the urethra to the rest of the urinary system. This happens for reasons such as wrong wiping, that is, wiping from back to front, not peeing after sex, underlying conditions such as diabetes, and failure to empty your bladder.

Will UTI go away on its own?

Studies show that about 30% of UTI infections go away on their own even without treatment. However, doctors advise against avoiding antibiotics since lack of treatment may deteriorate the signs of UTI.

What is the best thing to do for a urinary tract infection?

As soon as you suspect that you have a urinary tract infection, visit your doctor to confirm it and start treatment. The antibiotics administered will stop your symptoms within a few days after you start treatment. However, continue do not to stop taking the medicines even after you feel better.

How long does UTI last?

Ideally, UTI symptoms go away within 48 hours after you start treatment. However, if other parts of the urinary tract, such as the kidney, have been affected, it may take about a week after you start treatment to heal.

How can I get instant relief from a UTI?

To help relieve the symptoms before the urinary tract infections antibiotics respond, you may try home remedies such as taking a lot of water, using a heating pad, avoiding caffeine, and taking painkillers.

How common are urinary tract infections?

Urinary tract infections are common infections in both men and women. However, women are at a higher risk of having a UTI than men since they have a shorter urethra. Pregnant women also have an increased risk of suffering from UTIs.

Can I become immune to antibiotics used to treat a UTI?

If you take a dose of antibiotics with no change, your body may be resistant to them. In this case, your doctor will administer stronger antibiotics that will fight the bacteria causing the UTI.

Does cranberry juice prevent a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

There are claims among people that cranberry juice can prevent and treat UTI. However, there are no reliable studies to prove these claims. Nevertheless, doctors recommend that taking fluids a lot of fluids is necessary to treat and prevent UTI. Therefore, taking cranberry juice will do you no harm.

Urinary tract infections are common infections in your urinary system. Early diagnosis of the condition helps treat and stop the symptoms before it deteriorates. Contact our well women clinic or book an appointment with our Gynecologist for medical advise.

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