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BN Doctors’ Lounge: Urinary Tract Infections

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Black doctorsThe urinary tract of the human body is built like a sophisticated water treatment plant, complete with a series of filters, reservoirs, pipes and pumps, and its major function is to regulate the chemical constituency of the blood and ensure that it is kept within healthy limits.

The urinary tract (closely related to the genital tract and often jointly referred to as the genito-urinary system) comprises of a set of paired filters; the Left and Right Kidneys, an expandable storage tank and powerful prime pump; the Bladder as well as a network of pipes and drainage systems; the paired Ureters and a single Urethra.

A bacterial infection of any one of these structures is generally known as a Urinary Tract Infection or UTI.

Infections in each specific part however, go by a different name. A kidney infection is known as Pyelonephritis, a bladder infection is called Cystitis and a urethral infection is referred to as Urethritis.

So How Do I Know I Have A UTI?
Symptoms of a UTI are varied depending on the severity and location. Generally, patients describe pain or difficulty in passing urine (dysuria), a burning sensation at the tip of the urinary opening as well as an increased need to pee (frequency). Sometimes a patient describes a scenario where the need to pee is so overwhelming that they feel that if they don’t go soon, they would wet themselves (urgency). Often times though, on arriving at the toilet, they find that there’s not much urine to pass.

More serious symptoms are pain in the sides, a high temperature (fever), involuntary shaking (chills and rigors) or a blotchy rash on any part of the skin. If you have these symptoms, put down your Blackberry or iPad, get off your desktop or laptop, and please GET TO A HOSPITAL, NOW!

How Can The Doctor Be Certain I Have A UTI?
Healthy urine is sterile and there shouldn’t be any bacteria in it. (Doesn’t mean you should drink it though). To confirm a diagnosis of UTI, your doctor will ask for a sample of your urine and examine it under the microscope to look for bacteria and also culture it to see if any bacteria grow from it. He could also ask you to do an Ultrasound Scan to look directly at your kidneys, ureters and bladder.

How Can It Be Treated?
Uncomplicated cases of UTI are treated with oral antibiotics which your doctor will prescribe based on the results of the microscopy and culture tests. More severe cases of UTI will require admission to the hospital ward and administration of intravenous antibiotics through a vein. Drinking Cranberry juice is said to reduce reinfection in patients who have recurrent UTIs.

Can I Prevent It?
The most common cause of a UTI is what is known as an ascending infection which simply means that bacteria from around the urinary opening find their way into the urethra and manage to climb upstream into the bladder or even as high as the kidneys.
Now, swimming upwards against the powerful urinary stream as it exits the bladder would require a really ‘strong’ bacteria right? Well not really. Even simple skin commensals (S. aureus) and faecal organisms (E. coli) can colonize the urinary tract if given the right opportunity to do so.

UTIs are twice as common in women as in men and this is in part because women have a shorter urethra than men and the pesky critters that could invade the urinary system have a shorter distance to travel before they reach the bladder.

It could also be because women don’t pass urine as often as men. This is probably because men are more likely to find a corner and whip out their hoses to pee, whereas women notoriously hold in their pee until they find a comfortable clean place to do their business. Fair enough, a man peeing in the street is disgusting, but hey, at least they don’t get UTIs as often right?

Finally, another reason females may be more prone to UTIs is the anatomical proximity of the anal opening in women to the urethral opening. Wiping in the wrong direction and sexual intercourse can transfer faecal bacteria from the back passage to the urinary tract.

How Do I Prevent UTIs?

  • Gentlemen, Be clean. Shower regularly, wear clean underwear. A high level of personal hygiene will reduce most occurrences of UTI by half.
  • Ladies, don’t hold in your pee. The longer the time between bladder voiding, the higher the chances of bacteria ascending.
  • Drink more water. More water means more urination. More urination means less chance of infection.
  • Pee immediately after sex
  • Wipe from front to back!

In A Nutshell
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria ascending into the urethra and swimming up the urinary tract. They are twice as common in women as in men but can easily be prevented and in uncomplicated cases are also relatively easy to treat. If you suspect you have a UTI, please see a physician.

Did You Know?

Within the first few weeks after a couple get married the woman develops a type of UTI called Honeymoon Cystitis. This is simply an infection of the bladder caused by bacteria transferred from the back passage to the urinary tract due to either inexperienced or overzealous sexual intercourse. Chief bridesmaids in Europe are known to add a low dose (doctor prescribed) antibiotic to their hen night favours for the bride.

Disclaimer: This article is written for patient education. It is not intended to diagnose or prescribe treatment and does not replace the advice of your physician. It in no means attempts to cover the full medical scope of this condition.

Photo Credit:123rf.com
_________________________________________________________________________________________________
David Olamide Craig is a Physician, Pastor, Photographer, Poet and Playwright. He graduated Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Ibadan and holds a Masters in Occupational Health from the Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Birmingham. He is passionate about healthy living and sustainable energy.When he is not seeing patients, Dr. Craig spends his time stretched out on his favourite couch, reading books, magazines, and blogs.
Catch him on www.ijgb.com.ng and follow him on Twitter @RevDrCraig

28 Comments

  1. Autoprincess

    March 7, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Reading this just reminded me of how I lost an 8 month old pregnancy to I and my doctor’s careless approach to UTI…lost my little girl just like that.

    Thank God for giving me back my joy, now I have a 4 year old boy!! Halleluya!

    • HRS

      March 7, 2013 at 10:53 am

      Wow! @8months! Thank God you have been blessed with another baby, fabulous compensation.

  2. pynk

    March 7, 2013 at 10:32 am

    good job bella.

  3. D Pretty

    March 7, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Thank you BN.. You really do not know what you just did for me. Sometimes asking Google is a huge task but since BN is an addiction, am always willing to read.. Thank you again

  4. Zayt

    March 7, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Really enjoyed this article! thanks for the advice. Been a victim of UTI so many times…as am very prone to infections. Will never forget these tips! thanks BN. This is a must read for every girl/lady/woman out there.

  5. Annie

    March 7, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Holding in urine..ahhh i am guilty of that, a long time ago when i didnt know it had side effect, the rest room where my office was located then wasn’t neat at all, i used to hold my urine from morning until i get home in the evening..okay..i did have issues, that was how i got to know i was damaging my system by holding down urine that long. 🙁

  6. SWEETHEART

    March 7, 2013 at 10:54 am

    WAOW I cant even close my mouth. i was reading the internet on this same thing yesterday cos for some days, i was having this burning sensation right after peeing n i peed more often so i decided to see my doc and he said it was UTI. Drinking more water definately helps. Thank you BellaNaija. Even though i got all these info on my own already, im sure itl b very useful to a lot of people especially peeps who dont like to talk about it. I mentioned it to sm1 n the first thing the person said was “hmmm u sure u havent got an STD?”. SMH. Hope to read more of such articles. You guys ROCK!!!

  7. lilz

    March 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

    ‘honeymoon Cystitis” For some reason that made me laugh. llllooooll

    • So true

      March 7, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      This happened to me! Our marriage started long distance.. and when we finally moved to be together.. two months after he arrived I had UTI and it was the honeymoon cystitis. I was also shocked when I read it about the HC and when my doctor confirmed it.

  8. Myself

    March 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

    I don’t comment on post but this one I don’t have a choice.
    Dear Bella Naija, thank you, thank you so much Dr. Olamide Craig for this piece this is so enlighten; I do have UTI often especially when I pee in a shared toilet (mostly when a male pee in d same toilet) it so fast that I noticed in less than 2 hours or my next pee afterwards; my urine changes and I do feel a burning sensation at the tip of the urinary opening. Though I do visit the doctor but sometimes when I noticed, I take antibiotic (Amoxil). It’s been working for me but I just don’t want to have a UTI anymore, antibiotics as I know affect pregnancy. Now before I pee in a toilet either office or home, I pour disinfectant into the toilet. The most concerned part of it is that I just got married, am always afraid my husband goes into the toilet before me, though he understands but I just don’t wanna make him feel he’s dirty or somewhat because whenever he flushes the toilet after use, I still go in there, pour Harpic and disinfectant into the toilet to make it OK for my use. I hope am not going too far.”My toilet is the neatest part in my house; you can even eat in there if you don’t mind……….lol”

    • Anonymous

      March 7, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      Its very important to keep a clean toilet environment…but that shouldnt be your main area of focus in preventing UTIs…cleaning from front to back and the likes are areas that should be of primary concern, there is nothing like toilet disease

    • Myself

      March 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      its not a toilet disease… in my comment i said i do contact UTI whenever i use a shared toilet (mostly with males) every one *have* her own story.

  9. tobi

    March 7, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Good post, a lot of information missing tho e.g. Avoiding the use of perfumed soaps, wearing loose fitted clothing espically in tropical climates, patients should also be aware that this is a self-limiting condition, esp if it is cystitis. Use of mist pot citrate is very effective in washing off bacteria in the urinary tract, drinking cranberry juice is also very very beneficial for women.

    Pharm tobi…

    • Dr. Craig

      March 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      Avoiving Perfumed soaps (actually its pH unbalanced soaps and douches) and loose fitting clothes are more in line with candidiasis prevention.
      Cystitis is NOT a self limiting condition, and is the most common route for life threatening kidney infections and septicemia which may neccesitate dialysis and can complicate even advanced pregnancies.
      BN readers are please reminded to read the disclaimer on this article and to ALWAYS discuss health concerns with a qualified Physician

    • Partyrider

      March 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      ‘Pharm Tobi’ ? Looool..

      Bye Tobi 😀

  10. Mimi

    March 7, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Just before Christmas i experienced UTI, was so intense i peed blood for like a week straight. I did a couple of test(including an MRI) just to be sure my kidney was okay, i was so scared but the the doctor thought i wasn’t drinking enough water hence the bloody pee so i was made to drink over 6 litters a day and like magic the blood urine got less bloodier and am doing much better and i pay more attention to washrooms now and drink a lot more water on a daily basis.
    Don’t hold pee it’s unhealthy, drink a lot of water Africa is hot! and pay attention to personal hygiene and public washrooms.

  11. cindy

    March 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks BN for dis wounderful post

  12. Na wa

    March 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    [email protected]’pharm Tobi’….Naija and their titles.I guess you didn’t read the part where cranberry juice was mentioned.Anywayz,Dr Craig,I see ya handiwork o

  13. Joy

    March 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Nice article. A few points though: 1. there is no evidence that wiping from front to back decreases the incidence of UTI; 2. after a certain age(childhood), guys shouldnt have UTI at all and if a diagnosis is made, ensure your dr carries out other tests to investigate any underlying cause of the UTI..may find some structural defect/prostate probs or something. so yeah thats it 🙂

  14. Na wa

    March 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    And by the way it’s Potassium citrate not ‘pot’ citrate just for people to understand better.And it only relieves the symptoms especially the discomfort but you still have to treat with antibiotics and not everybody can take it.U have to consider so many other factors like your heart and kidney conditions and even pregnancy.So please abeg people should always consult with DOCTORS first!

  15. Stephanie Ikem

    March 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Just recovering from this infection…..bleeding whenever i wee and also painful……i was given some kind of antibiotics wit penicillin and it worked magic

  16. Traditionalbay

    March 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    lol @ Pee immediately after sex.

    • Joy

      March 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      as in loooool

  17. Eebony

    March 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    thanks @Dr Craig for this impt piece,now i know to pay attention to certain symptoms and even take precautions

  18. Emerald

    March 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Craig, I see you oo.

  19. adenike

    March 7, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you Bella Naija and Dr. Craig for this. Just followed Dr, Craig on Twitter. Well done.

  20. Anonymous

    March 7, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Lol @ ‘Within the first few weeks after a couple get married the woman develops a type of UTI called Honeymoon Cystitis.’
    I am so guilty of this. I’d like to add that there is nothing like toilet disease though and it is not in anyway connected to UTIs
    Thanks Bella & Doc

  21. Mummy in waiting

    March 8, 2013 at 3:06 am

    Doc please u said pee immediately after sex, but have heard countless times that if you are trying to get pregnant you should try lying on your back for a while before peeing so you can improve your chances…..how do we reconcile that? Need to know cos am 42, married 8 yrs now and still trying to get pregnant….

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