Urinary tract infections are usually caused by bacteria entering through the urethra and manifesting into the bladder. Bacteria such as the Escherichia coli ( E. coli ), which are present in the intestine and stool, can travel from the anus to the urethra. Women are more susceptible to bladder infections than men as they have shorter urethras as compared to men and the distance between the rectum and the urethra is also comparatively less in women, thereby making it easier for the bacteria to travel.
Certain life events such as pregnancy also make women more prone to UTIs, as the enlarging uterus can cause a pressure on the bladder and disrupt normal urine flow. Women, who are going through a post-menopausal phase, go through certain physiological changes which can cause vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, urinary retention and so on, which increases chances of developing infections.
Urinary tract infections can be painful and extremely inconvenient. UTIs can cause burning or stinging sensations during urination, urinary incontinence and retention, cloudy, bloody or foul smelling urine, pain in the abdomen or pelvic area among other symptoms. If the bacteria spread to the kidneys, it can also cause symptoms like fever, chills, nausea etc.
A UTI can be treated with the help of oral medications and may subside in a couple days. For those women who have a chronic condition, daily low dose antibiotics may prove useful. However, we may agree that prevention is always better than cure, and we shall therefore look at all the precautions women can take in order to prevent the occurrence of a UTI.
It is almost surprising, how making a few simple and easy lifestyle changes can help in preventing urinary infections, the first and foremost being adequate fluid intake. Drinking a sufficient amount of water can help in flushing out toxins and bacteria from the body thereby keeping the urinary tract free of infections. Avoiding drinks that are high in caffeine or alcoholic is preferred. You should also make sure that you urinate as soon as you feel the urge to, and that you empty your bladder completely, as retention can cause infections.
Maintaining a good level of hygiene is also instrumental in the prevention of infections.
Keeping the genital area clean is important and knowing the do’s and don’ts regarding how to do so is even more important. It is always recommended to clean from front to back in order to prevent transfer of bacteria from the rectum to the urethra. You should also avoid using products that are heavily scented douches, bath products and feminine deodorants. You should also choose a shower over a bath as the chances of bacterial transfer are extremely low with the former.
It is also advised to urinate and wash before and after sexual intercourse as it helps in preventing any bacterial transfer to the urethra or vagina. You may also want to reconsider using spermicidal jelly and diaphragms and switch to other birth control methods as these can increase bacterial growth. Wearing cotton undergarments and loose fitting clothes is advised as it does not trap moisture as opposed to other garments which can be breeding grounds for bacteria.
Being proactive and making suitable changes is the best way to prevent and tackle the distress that can be caused by urinary tract infections. Women who have recurring UTIs can benefit if they follow these precautionary measures as it can help prevent the reoccurrence of the infection. Those women that have never experienced one can also make use of these measures to avoid them altogether.
Dr Shailesh Raina is one of the best Urologist to consult, practicing at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Peddar Road, Mumbai. There is also specialized Urologist department at Wockardt Hospital, Mumbai Central, Mumbai having well known Doctor’s listed for consultation.