Having a urinary tract infection is like having a nightmare - you know the one where you search and search for the public toilet, finally find it after much trial and tribulation, you sit down, do your thing, but feel no better than before. The only difference is in real life, this is usually the point where you wake up.
More women affected than men
The fact of the matter is that young women are thirty times more likely than men to suffer from this bacterial infection. The reason for this is purely physiological - in women their urethra is situated very close to the anus and it is the large intestine that is the main source of the bacteria causing this infection.
Anyone who has ever suffered from this, will recognise the following symptoms:
- Painful, burning urination
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Constant urge to urinate
- Back pain
- Fever, chills and nausea
- Bloody urine
(The last three symptoms indicate a possible kidney infection and if you experience these, see a doctor immediately)
Often women get this infection when they become sexually active. It is natural for some bacteria to make its way into the bladder during intercourse, but this does not have to cause a problem. It is only when the bladder is not emptying properly, or becomes overrun with bacteria that the infection really takes hold.
Women who don’t drink enough fluids often get urinary tract infections, because the bladder is never full enough to empty completely.
- Irregular urination
Infrequent visits to the bathroom can cause a woman to be more susceptible to urinary tract infections. The longer urine stays in the bladder, the more the bacteria can multiply.
For good hygiene, women are also encouraged to wipe from front to back to avoid the spread of bacteria.
- Lower back pain
Physical stress, caused by the wearing of high heels, exercising improperly, or during pregnancy adds pressure on the bladder that can keep it from emptying completely.
- Other irritants
Nylon underwear and tight-fitting clothing that continually rub against the mouth of the urinary tract or the labia can cause abrasions onto which bacteria can latch. Tampons and sanitary pads must also be replaced regularly.
What you can do
- Drink enough fluids to ensure the passage of 1,5 - 2 litres of urine a day
- Take something to alkalinise the urine (this will stop the burning) e.g. Citro-soda
- Get an antibiotic from your doctor if the infection persists.
- Women should empty the bladder after sexual intercourse
- Avoid spermicidal creams and diaphragm contraceptives as both of these are associated with a higher incidence of urinary tract infection.
It is worth sticking to the above precautionary measures, as 40 percent of cystitis sufferers have recurring infections within a year. And this could become an ongoing nightmare.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated February 2008)