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Could you be suffering from urinary tract infections?

<p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/UTI%20body%20image.jpg" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/></span> </p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Urinary tract infection is one of the most dreaded infections and most women suffering from the problem shy away from opening up due to the embarrassing nature of presentation and affected area. In fact, most of them suffer in silence at the initial stages until the problem persists when they seek medical attention. Dr Joan Okemo, Consultant Obstetrician Gynaecologist at Aga Khan University Hospital gives a better understanding of urinary tract infections below.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How likely will a woman get UTI?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">UTI is among the most common types of infection in Kenya. Nearly half of all women will suffer from a urinary tract infection at some point in their lives. The urinary tract infection is more prevalent in women compared to men due to the fact that the urethra is shorter for women than men and it is also closer to the back passage (anus) than in men thus allowing bacteria quick access from the urethra to the bladder and causing an infection.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How does a UTI occur?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The urinary tract system encompasses the urethra, bladder, ureters and kidneys. An infection occurs when bacteria enters this system and multiplies.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong>What symptoms do most women present with?</strong></span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The symptoms of urinary tract infection include; a burning sensation during urination, constant urge to pass urine, frequent urination, pain in lower abdomen, nausea and fever. In severe cases, the urine may be bloody or have a foul smell. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Though viruses and fungi can cause an infection, in eighty percent of the cases of urinary tract infections, the main cause is a bacterium found in the intestine, Escherichia coli, commonly known as E.Coli.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How are UTIs managed?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Most UTIs are bladder infections and are not serious if they are treated right away. However, If left untreated, a bladder infection may travel to the kidneys and cause complications. When the infection is just in the bladder and urethra, it is called a lower UTI but if it travels up to affect one or both kidneys, then it becomes an upper UTI. This can be more dangerous than lower UTIs, as the kidneys can be damaged by the infection.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">A urine culture is used to determine the cause of the infection. UTIs are normally treated with antibiotics for a short period of time. Depending on severity of the symptoms, treatment for UTI ranges from 3 days to 2 weeks.  </span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What complications can occur?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">When treated promptly and properly, lower urinary tract infections rarely lead to complications. But if left untreated, UTIs can cause serious health problems including kidney damage, low birth weight or premature delivery especially if it occurs during pregnancy, repeated infection and potential sepsis especially if the infection travels up the urinary tract to the kidneys.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Are there factors that can predispose one to UTIs?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Risk factors for urinary tract infection include diabetes, pregnancy, recent sexual activity, history of UTI, kidney stone and prostate cancer. The infections are common in pregnancy due to the increase of the pregnancy hormone, progesterone, which slows down the clearing mechanism of the bladder as well as the physical changes caused by pregnant uterus on the urinary system.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Children are also susceptible to UTIs because their genitals easily come into contact with soiled nappies. E. Coli can be caused by contamination from the back passage when passing stool, therefore people who have problems with bowel control are prone to urinary tract infections.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Can UTI be spread through sexual intercourse?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Urinary tract infection is not sexually transmitted; however anal sex can cause UTI especially in gay partners. In most cases, UTI infections are caused by bacteria located in the urinary tract, not in the birth canal. Some sexually transmitted infections may present with symptoms similar to UTI, especially in recurrences, it might be prudent to check for STIs as potential causes and treat appropriately.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How can I prevent myself from contracting UTI?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">There is no reliable way to prevent urinary tract infections, but there are several preventive measures that can be taken to help minimise your chances of getting one. Practice good hygiene, drink plenty of water to flush out the bladder and urethra and cranberry juice which changes the PH of urine and prevents E. coli from sticking to the wall of the bladder, among others, drink plenty of fluids, urinating after sexual intercourse and avoid holding in urine for long hours.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;"><em>This article was first published in Business Daily on February 27, 2022</em></strong></p>

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