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Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is when an organism (bacteria) causes an infection anywhere in the urinary system. The female urinary tract involves the
The urethra and bladder constitutes the lower urinary tract and above the bladder will constitute the upper urinary tract.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection
Patients with lower urinary tract infection may present with symptoms of
- Burning sensation during urination
- Increased urgency to urinate
- Frequent sensation of needing to pass urine
- Cloudy, smelly urine
- Blood in urine
- Pain in the lower abdominal area
Occasionally , the infection may spread beyond the bladder to the ureters and kidneys, causing upper urinary tract infections.
When infection involves the upper urinary tract, it can be potentially life-threatening if the bacteria moves into the blood stream. This may result in dangerously low blood pressure or even death.
Early symptoms of upper urinary tract infection includes :
- Pain in the upper back and sides
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme feeling of unwell
All UTI needs proper treatment. If you have the above symptoms , please see your family physician or urologist urgently.
Urine dipstick : these are very convenient tests that can be done in the clinic with results obtained within 5-10 minutes.
Urine Formed Element Microscopic Examination (UFEME) for short and urine cultures.
These tests are done and sent to the laboratory for visual confirmation of the urine infection and for identification of the bacteria that is causing the infection. These results may take 3 to 5 days to come back.
The results are important as it guides doctors in the appropriate use of antibiotics.
However, if an upper urinary tract infection is suspected, the case would be referred to the emergency department or urgently to a urologist in the same day for inpatient treatment, which would almost always include intravenous antibiotics.
Drink plenty of water: to flush the bacteria out of the system
Oral antibiotics prescribed by doctors. The most common ones include Augmentin or Ciprofloxacin. In most cases, the symptoms would resolve within 2-3 days of starting the antibiotics.
Common causes of UTI in females
In females , the common causes of urinary tract infection are
- Sexual intercourse
- Use of certain condoms, spermicides and lubricant jelly
- During menses as blood can attract bacterial growth
- Weakened immune system due to diabetes or chemotherapy
- Not drinking enough water or holding your bladder
- Prolonged immobility or bed rest.
Simple Prevention measures for UTI
- Drinking 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day to stay hydrated
- Go to the toilet when you have the urge. Do not hold your bladder.
- Pass urine and wash up after sexual intercourse
- Change your choice of contraception like condom or diaphragm if you suspect that it is a cause of your infection.
5) Always remember to clean yourself from the front to the back after toileting to prevent bacteria from your rectum from contaminating the urinary system.
Recognise the symptoms of UTI , see your doctor early for appropriate treatment as soon as possible to prevent serious consequences. There are possible steps you can do to reduce your chance of getting an infection. Start practising them now!
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)