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RenalNews: Urinary Tract Infection and Your Kidneys

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Have you ever experienced pain during urination? Or have this urgent and frequent need to urinate? If the answer is yes, then you may have or are suffering from a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). The above stated are some of the symptoms associated with a UTI and must be treated immediately. In most cases, UTIs can be treated successfully without causing kidney damage; however, UTIs that go for long periods of time untreated could lead to kidney damage. You definitely don’t want that happening to you.

UTIs are a burden that millions of people endure every year, and although men do develop them, UTIs are mostly common in women, and are the most prevalent type of infection for women to contract…affecting one in five women at least once every year.

Causes of UTI

The urinary tract is made up of the bladder, urethra, and two ureters and kidneys. Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) occur when bacteria gets into the urinary tract and multiply. Usually a UTI is caused when bacteria enters the urinary tract and travels up to the bladder, causing redness, swelling, and pain. If a UTI is not treated promptly, the bacteria can move up to the kidneys and cause a more serious type of infection, such as Pyelonephritis.

Types of UTI

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As earlier mentioned the most common UTIs occur mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra.

  • Infection of the bladder: UTIs that are in the bladder are usually caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli). E. coli is a type of bacteria that is commonly found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Infection of the bladder is also known as cystitis and occurs as a result of sexual intercourse…note you don’t have to be sexually active to develop cystitis. However, all women are at risk of cystitis because of the female anatomy…specifically the short distance from the urethra to the anus and the urethral opening to the bladder.
  • Infection of the urethra: UTIs that occur in the urethra are as a result of bacteria spreading from the anus to the urethra. Infection in the bladder is also called Urethritis and can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, mostly due to the female anatomy…specifically the short distance from the urethra to the anus and the urethral opening to the bladder. A lot of new brides who engage in frequent sexual intercourse tend to suffer from urethritis, hence it is also referred to as the honeymoon UTI.

Symptoms of UTI

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  • Burning sensation (pain) during urination
  • Urgent need to urinate (often with only a few drops of urine to pass)
  • Frequent need to urinate (often with only a few drops of urine to pass)
  • Itchiness around your genital area
  • Strong odor to the urine

Note: If the infection spreads to the kidneys and becomes more severe, it may result in pain in the lower back, as well as fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. Make sure you see your doctor immediately if you have any these symptoms.

People More Susceptible to UTIs

Anyone could get UTIs, but some people are more likely than others to get them. The following are people who are more prone to getting UTIs;

  • Women: As earlier mentioned, women get UTIs more often than men do, again, possibly due to their anatomy; a shorter urethra which may make it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder
  • Diabetes Patients: Individuals with diabetes experience changes in their body’s defense system that may make it easier for them to get UTIs
  • Transplant Recipients: Transplant recipients have a compromised immune system due to the anti rejection medications they take, hence they may be prone to getting UTIs
  • People with a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate gland may have their urine flow blocked, which can cause a UTI. Men who get UTIs often have an enlarged prostate gland.

Note: Although pregnant women are NOT likely to get UTIs, UTIs may be more serious during pregnancy because they are more likely to travel to the kidneys. A pregnant woman with a UTI should consult her doctor to avoid potential problems like high blood pressure and premature delivery of the baby.

Treatment of UTI

After your health care team has tested your urine for bacteria and blood cells and confirmed a UTI, antibiotics may also be tested to see which one the bacteria is sensitive to, and so determine which one will work best against the bacteria. Relief of symptoms usually occurs within one or two days after treatment with antibiotics has begun; but doctors usually ask that the antibiotic be taken for one or two weeks to make sure the infection has been cured. Other therapies that could help relief some of the symptoms include dinking plenty of water to flush out the kidneys, pain killers to help relief pain during urination, heating pad, and cranberry juice or pills.

What to do if Infection Persists Even after Treatment

If your UTI doesn’t go away despite treatment, revisit your doctor right away. Your doctor may have to do the following to determine the cause and so be able to further find relief for you.

  • Ultrasound exam: This exam gives a picture of your kidneys and bladder using sound waves
  • Cytoscopic Exam: During this exam, a hollow tube with special lenses is used to look inside the bladder
  • Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP): This is a type of x-ray which involves injecting a dye into a vein and taking pictures of the kidneys and bladder

If repeated UTIs occur within a short period of time, say about 3 or more times a year, your doctor may also recommend either of the following:

  • To take low doses of an antibiotic for six months or more
  • To take a single dose of an antibiotics after having sex
  • To take an antibiotic for one or  two days when symptoms occur

How to Prevent UTIs

  1. Drink Plenty of Fluids; Preferably water; to flush out your kidneys. However, evidence suggests that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills may reduce the chances of developing a UTI …this is because it contains compounds that may stop certain bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract wall
  2. Avoid Holding Your Pee: Do not delay going to the bathroom whenever you need to urinate
  3. Wipe From Front to Back: After using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract from entering the urinary tract
  4. Cleanse your genital area daily
  5. Cleanse your genital area before and after sex
  6. Wear clean under garments

Children and UTIs

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Although less predominantly, children too sometimes get UTIs. UTIs in children is mostly common in girls between ages 4 and 8. Also, infants born with an abnormality of their urinary tract have an increase chance of getting a UTI. Some of the symptoms of UTI in children are similar to those in adults. Parents should watch out for the following signs of a possible UTI in their children:

  • Low fever
  • Irritability
  • New day or night wetting in a child who has been dry
  • As in adults, frequent urination, pain during urination, strong odor to the urine, cloudy or blood stringed urine

Note: If infection spreads to the kidneys, the child may also have high fever, back pain, and experience vomiting.

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