Only when it becomes unbearable or turns into something more serious like blood in the urine or pus in the urine that we sit up and take notice. These symptoms are indicative of UTI (urinary tract infection) or cystitis which is common among women.
Symptoms Of UTI
A lower urinary tract infection means that the bladder and urethra are infected and symptom are nausea, frequent urination and burning pain while passing urine. On the other hand an upper urinary tract infection means that the kidney and ureter are also affected and will be accompanied by fever, chills, and more severe nausea and vomiting.
Causes Of UTI
In India one of the common reasons why women suffer from UTI is the non-availability of proper public washrooms which in turn leads to less water consumption as well. In either case this increases the chance of kidney damage and also puts pressure on the bladder when not emptied timely.
Among other causes are repeated sexual intercourse, pregnancy, menopause or growth of stones in the urinary tract or obstruction of the tract. Repeated sexual intercourse might damage the tissue around the vaginal opening and create a zone for bacteria to breed. The bacteria in turn might migrate to the urethra and bladder and infect them as well leading to the break of an UTI.
During pregnancy, the pressure of the foetus on the bladder prevents it from emptying easily. This can cause a reverse trickle of urine into the tubes connecting the bladder into the kidneys. This leads to stagnant urine and finally infection.
Menopause may also lead to an UTI as during this time the mucus around the vagina dries up and makes it more vulnerable to injuries.
Growth of stones or any other obstruction in the bladder or urethra leads to a narrowing of the tube and hence increases chances of infection.
Treatment Of UTI
The first thing to follow is to drink plenty of water. This helps to flush out the bacteria out of the system. Drink a glass of water every time you urinate (try to drink at least 1-2 litres a day) and stop drinking tea, coffee or colas which further dehydrate the body. Also avoid spicy food which could irritate the bladder. Don’t use oral contraceptives and abstain from sex for a while till you recover. Keep your genital region clean and dry and switch to cotton panties.
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See a qualified doctor and get a urine test done. Normally rest and plenty of fluids and juices help to cure minor urinary infections. But if it is a more acute case then after studying your urine sample the doctor may suggest antibiotics. This maybe a sulfa drug hence if you are allergic to such drugs be sure to warn your doctor beforehand. Sometimes the doctor may advise you to drink lime juice or take vitamin C as some drugs work well only when the urine PH is correct .
If you are pregnant while suffering from an UTI be careful about the drugs that you take as they might affect the foetus adversely. Also often during pregnancy an ordinary urine analysis may not reveal an UTI. So be sure to have a urine test done along with your gynaecological exam.
Traditional Home Remedies Of UTI
Though these are not a substitute for seeing a doctor, you can try these when things are at a milder stage or after consultation with your physician.
Methi (fenugreek seeds) soaked in cued and crushed and eaten for a few days.
Drink cranberry juice (avoid if you have a history of kidney stones).
Jeera (cumin seeds) crushed and boiled in water and drunk.
Barley water or aloe water drunk several times a day.
Curd eaten while undergoing treatment with antibiotics as this helps prevent side-effects of antibiotics and curd contains beneficial bacteria which counters infections as well.
Prevention Of UTI
Urinate frequently. When you urinate frequently you empty your bladder leaving no room for stale urine to accumulate and thus diluting the urine when the next batch of fluids is in taken. If your workplace does not have proper sanitary conditions, insist on improving this. Nothing is more important than your health.
Use sanitary pads and not tampons. Also change them frequently.
Don’t wear tight synthetic panties over a long period of time as this leads to sweat and breeding of bacteria. Also change undergarments frequently.
Urinate after and before intercourse to prevent infection and ensure that you are properly lubricated.
Always remember to wipe your genital region from front to back to avoid bacteria passing from the anal region to the vaginal region.
Avoid perfumes, soaps or oils near the genital region.
After menopause if your vaginal area feels dry use an estrogen cream.
Try to increase your intake of vitamin C by having more citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, strawberries etc or take supplements. This helps by keeping the urine PH normal (i.e. making it acidic) and thus prevents harbouring bacteria. Cranberry juice is also a powerful way of preventing UTI.
Avoid sugar as this may lead to hyperglycaemia which in turn causes UTI in diabetics.
If UTI infections recur after treatment, do go for a thorough check up as this might lead to some serious ailment that you are suffering from. Never take a UTI lightly as it might lead to kidney damage and other serious conditions. Do not shy away from discussing this with a doctor and if you are uncomfortable discussing your condition take a trusted friend or a family member along.
Try to take rest and if you have a partner ask for support during this time. As UTI affects more women than men (due to the difference in the constitution of the male and female body) men may not be receptive about the situation. So try explaining in scientific terms.
So don’t let UTI cripple your life. Follow healthy practises and bid goodbye to UTI once and for all.