If there is anything any health conscious woman dreads, as experts reveal, UTIs can lead to death and they it can damage more sensitive organs like the nervous system.
According to Dr. Joshua Kasudha of Central Medical Center in Kyengera, a Kampala suburb, UTIs normally attack the urinary tract system which consists of kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.
Kasudha says that UTIs are mainly caused by a bacterium called Escherichia Coli (E.coli) which invades the urinary tract, will multiply and thus lead to an infection.
The use of the urinary system
Scientifically, the urinary tract system is the system that enables the body to get rid of waste products in form urine. While it consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra, the key elements in the system are the kidneys.
The kidneys are responsible for controlling the amount of water in the blood and filtering out waste products to form urine. Each kidney was designed to have a tube called a ureter which joins it to the bladder. It is through this tube that urine leaves the kidneys to enter the bladder. Once the bladder is full, it signals the urge to urinate and urine leaves the body through a tube called the urethra.
According to Dr. Kasudha, once E. coli assaults the urinary tract, it first attacks the urethra, ascends to the bladder and then to the kidneys. These are the three main organs of the urinary tract and signify the three types of the Urinary Tract Infections: Urethritis which is the infection of the urethra, Cystitis is the infection of the bladder and Pyelonephritis occurs when bacteria ascend up the urethras and infect the kidneys.
Given the fact that kidneys are the key elements in the urinary tract, once they are infected, they may be severely damaged leading to kidney failure.
Signs and symptoms
When a person gets a UTI, the first thing he/she develops is the persistent strong urge to urinate and frequent urination with a few drops of urine coming out. During urination, Dr. Kasudha explains there is a painful, burning feeling in the urethra and the urine itself may be cloudy or reddish if blood is present.
He said the presence of blood usually indicates the severity of the infection. During urination, especially in men, he says when blood first comes out before the urine; this shows that the infection has attacked the outer part of the urethra.
When urine comes out mixed with blood, this indicates that the whole of the urethra has been damaged with infection. However, when urine comes out first and blood last, this will indicate a bladder infection. He explains that when a person has finished urinating, the bladder normally contracts. This causes blood flow if there is an infection.
Research shows that if a person is suffering from acute pyelonephritis, he/she will also develop flank pain, high fever, severe chills and nausea or vomiting. As for Cystitis, a person especially a woman may develop pressure in the lower abdomen and pass out strong-smelling urine. However, Urethritis may lead to pus in women’s urine and for men a penile discharge.
When urine is being processed, it is normally sterile which means that it does not contain any bacteria, fungi or virus. Therefore, to infect the urinary system, a micro organism has to enter through the urethra or rarely through the blood stream.
As noted earlier, UTIs are caused by E.Coli which usually spreads to the urethra from the anus or in the vagina. Once the bacteria enter the urethra, it travels upward causing infection in the bladder and sometimes other parts of the urinary tract.
Other micro-organisms responsible for UTIs are Chlamydia and Mycoplasma. These normally cause Urethritis and cystitis in both men and women. These two bacteria are sexually transmitted so when these infections are detected it is advised that both partners received medical treatment to avoid re-infection.
Apart from patho causes, Dr. Kasudha argues that environmental and bodily physical factors increase the chances of acquiring a UTI. He cites unsafe sexual intercourse especially with multiple partners, pregnancies, diabetes, hypertension and poor hygiene can intensify the risk of contracting UTIs.
He explained that people who engage in unsafe sex with multiple partners tend to sexually transmit microorganisms that cause UTIs. And if a man is uncircumcised, bacteria may collect under the foreskin heightening the risk of the spread of UTI pathogens and infections.
Given the anatomy of women, he added that frequent sex coupled with poor hygiene can make women more prone to UTIs since during sexual intercourse, bacteria from the anus and vagina areas could be easily massaged into the urethra by the motion of the penis.
Kasudha cites a number of predisposing factors for for UTIs as being pregnancy, hypertension and diabetes. The three factors contribute to rapid spread of the disease by lowering the immunity of a person under this condition.
Why women are more prone?
According to Kasudha, women are more prone to UTIs than the men primarily because of their body anatomy. Because the vagina, urethra and anus are very close to each other unlike for the men, it facilitates faster movement of bacteria, fungi, and viruses from the anus to the vagina and then to the urethra.
He added that because women have a shorter urethra unlike that of the men, this makes it easier for bacteria to find their way into the bladder.
Apart from people with low immune systems, and those who practice unsafe sex with multiple partners, other people who are at risk of frequently contracting UTIs according to Dr. Kasudha are those who have any abnormality of the urinary tract that obstructs the flow of urine.
He says this normally occurs in infants who need to be corrected with surgery.
Dangers of UTIs
The danger with UTIs is that they not only affect the urinary system, they can damage other organs of the body such as the digestive system and central nervous system.
In order to diagnose Urinary Tracy Infections, Dr. Kasudha says a urinalysis needs to be done. This is performed in order to look for ‘pus’ cells in the urine which are indicators of UTIs.
UTIs are normally treated with antibiotics. However, Dr. Kasudha urges people to seek help from their doctors. Treatment of patients with recurrent infections varies depending on the cause.
The first preventive measure of UTIs is to drink as much water (8 glasses are recommended daily) as possible. Drinking large quantities of water helps to dilute a person’s urine and to flash bacteria from the urinary tract. It is also advised that someone urinates frequently but also avoid holding back urine.
People should also make sure they get enough vitamin C in their diet. This boosts one’s immunity and also makes the urine acidic, which in turn decreases the number of bacteria.
In order to ensure hygiene, it is recommended that a woman should wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria around the anus from entering the vagina or urethra.
Women should also cleanse their genital areas with water before and after sexual intercourse and avoid using feminine hygiene sprays and scented douches, which may irritate the urethra. It is also recommended that they urinate every after having sexual intercourse.