Urinary tract infections, or UTIs as they are more commonly known, are a common medical condition which particularly affect women, babies and the elderly. In fact, UTIs are the second most common type of infection in humans and it has been estimated about one in two women and one in 20 men will suffer from a UTI in their lifetime.
UTIs can involve just about any part of the urinary tract which is the body’s plumbing, filtration and liquid waste system. The kidneys and the bladder can be affected, as can the ureter and the urethra, the tubes which carry urine to and from the bladder.
The urinary system is designed to minimise the risk of serious infection in the kidneys by acting to prevent urine flowing back up into the kidneys from the bladder. Most urinary infections are confined to the bladder and, while causing symptoms, usually are not serious or life threatening. If an infection spreads to the kidneys it can cause serious health issues.
Some people are at greater risk than others of developing UTIs, including women, people with urinary catheters, people with diabetes, and men with prostate problems. Female hormones can affect urine acidity making it more likely for the offending organisms to thrive – especially at certain times of the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy and menopause, or following a hysterectomy. Sexually active women are more at risk because sex can push the bacteria into the urethra.
Some symptoms of UTI include:
- Wanting to urinate more often and urgently, if only a few drops
- Burning pain or a ‘scalding’ sensation when urinating
- A feeling the bladder is still full after urinating
- Pain above the pubic bone
- Blood in the urine
If an infection reaches the kidneys, symptoms can include:
- Loin (lower abdominal) pain
- Pain in the back
If you notice any symptoms you should immediately seek medical assistance. Speak to your community pharmacist about any possible symptoms and they will advise on possible treatments or refer you to a doctor for further consultation if necessary.
But prevention is always the best alternative and drinking enough water to flush the system is one of the keys to warding off UTIs. While there is no single recommended amount of water to drink every day, a guide is that you should never feel thirsty.
There are other hygiene practices and tips to helping prevent UTIs and your community pharmacist can discuss these with you.