Urinary tract infection is a bacterial infection that can affect any part of your urinary system—the urethra, kidneys, ureters, or bladder. However, UTI most commonly affects the lower urinary tract, namely, the bladder and the urethra. Although both men and women can experience UTI, women are 10 times more prone to urinary tract infections than men. In fact, more than 50% of women will have at least one episode of UTI in their lifetime. This is because the urethra of women, or the duct that transports urine out of the body from the bladder, is shorter and closer to the anus. As a result, bacteria can travel much easier and have quicker access to the urinary tract of women compared to men, leading to a higher risk of bacterial infection. Because of how common it is among women, it is important to know the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments of UTI to keep yourself well informed about the disease. Here’s a complete guide to urinary tract infection in women.
Basically, urinary tract infections occur when bacteria gain access to the urinary tract through the urethra. The bacteria will then begin to multiply until it eventually makes its way to the bladder if it is not treated. Urinary tract infection in women most commonly affects the bladder and the urethra, leading to cystitis and urethritis, respectively.
- Cystitis is the bacterial infection of the bladder which is commonly caused by gastrointestinal tract bacteria known as Escherichia coli. Urinary tract infection of E. coli usually occurs in women because of their anatomy—the distance between the urethra and the anus, and the distance between the urethral opening and the bladder is typically short in women.
- Urethritis is the infection of the urethra which occurs when the gastrointestinal tract bacteria E. coli, or some other bacteria, enter and spread in the urethra. Urethritis can also be caused by other sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, herpes, and gonorrhoea.
Various risk factors can also lead to urinary tract infection in women. Some of these risk factors include:
- New sex partner or multiple partners. Sexually active women are generally more prone to UTI than women who are not sexually active but having a new sex partner or multiple partners increase the risk.
- Use of irritating products and contraceptives
- Heavy use of antibiotics
- Blockage in the urinary tract
- Use of birth control pills
Keep an eye out for these signs and symptoms associated with UTI.
- Burning sensation when you urinate
- Pelvic pain
- Pain or pressure in the back or lower abdomen
- Frequent, strong, persistent urge to urinate even if only a small amount of urine is excreted
- Cloudy urine
- Strong smelling urine
- Blood or pus in the urine
- Chills or fever (may indicate that the infection have reached your kidneys)
- Nausea and vomiting
The very first thing you have to do if you suspect that you have a urinary tract infection is to visit your doctor. You’ll then be asked to give a urine sample so that it can be tested for the presence of bacteria. Depending on the severity of the infection, antibiotics are usually given in order to kill the bacteria that caused the UTI. There are also other home treatments you can do in order to speed up the UTI-ridding process.
- Drink lots of water. Drinking lots of water will help flush away the UTI-causing bacteria from your system.
- Empty your bladder. Even if you just went a few minutes ago, don’t resist the persistent urge to urinate even if only small amounts of urine come out—doing so will help get rid of the bacteria that are causing the infection.
- Take some vitamin C. Consume foods that are rich in vitamin C or take some vitamin C supplements. Large amounts of vitamin C can make your urine more acidic thereby inhibiting the growth and spread of bacteria in your urinary tract.