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Urinary Tract Infection

"Burning Down Under"
By: Risa Caldoza-De Leon MD, FPAPSHPIUrinary Tract Infection

According to World Health Organization (WHO), UTI is a leading cause of disease and health spending in person of all ages. Every year, UTI accounts for nearly 10 million visits to the doctor. Women are prime candidates. By age 32, half of all women report having gone through at least one episode of UTI.

UTI is an infection anywhere in the urinary tract, from the kidneys to the urethra. The kidneys, two bean-shaped organs, filter waste from the blood to make urine. The ureters are thin tubes from the kidneys that take urine to the bladder, which is a sac housing the urine. The urethra, a 2-inch tube, carries urine from the bladder out of the body.

UTI may be one of two types. A lower UTI involves the bladder and called cystitis. In upper UTI, the ureters and kidneys are affected. This is called pyelonephritis. Simple or uncomplicated UTIs are infections that happen in healthy people with normal urinary tracts.

UTI in men is generally considered complicated. However, the first episode of UTI in males 15 to 40 years old and otherwise sexually active with no urologic abnormality is said to be uncomplicated UTI. Three in 25 men will have symptoms of at least one UTI during their lifetime.

Why Oh Why?

When a nasty bug, usually E. coli, which normally lives in the colon, makes its way from your rectum to the urinary tract, UTI happens. The lining of the affected part of the urinary tract becomes red and irritated. Other microbes such as Mycoplasma and Chlamydia can cause urethritis in both men and women.

Wiping from back to front after a bowel movement and holding in urine, are some of the causes of UTIs in women. Sitting on a hot surface, as thought by Anne, does definitely not cause it.

During pregnancy, women undergo changes in the anatomy of their urinary tract, making  them even more susceptible to this annoying problem. Kidney and bladder infections can seriously threaten mom and unborn child by increasing the risk of premature contractions or delivery.

Menopausal women get affected due to a decline in the hormone estrogen that circulates in the body and loss of vaginal flora that offer protection. Also, vaginal atrophy that sometimes happens after menopause is linked to recurrent UTI.

A weak immune system, seen in diseases like diabetes, can increase the risk of UTI. Hospitalized patients using catheter or who underwent a recent urinary procedure should be given extra care.

UTIs in men are quite rare but are more serious. Blockages in the urinary tract, not being circumcised, prostrate problems, and sexual intercourse are some factors boosting the likelihood of men developing UTI.           

Dousing the fire

While the body does its best to fend off infection, sometimes you just can’t do it on your own. Most UTIs are treated with a 3-day therapy of antibiotics such as co-trimoxazole, ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, norfloxacin or levofloxacin. Most uncomplicated UTI can be gone in two to three days, since oral antibiotics cures 94% of patients. Sadly, the chances of one having UTI again, remain high. Never self-medicate. Always consult a doctor!

Pregnant women or those who have diseases suppressing the immune system, such as diabetes, usually need to take antibiotics for longer. Those with severe upper UTI may need hospitalization where they will be plied with antibiotics injected through their veins. If infection reaches the kidneys, prompt medical attention is needed.

To prevent the spread of intestinal bacteria from the rectum to the urinary tract, women always should wipe toilet tissue from front to the back after having a bowel movement. Hygiene is key!

Recurrent infections, especially in women who suffer through three or more UTIs a year, are candidates for prophylaxis treatment, where a special antibiotic regimen is prescribed to avoid one having to brave through UTI in the future.

Drink up

Chugging 8 glasses of water a day is a healthy habit. Fluids flush out bacteria from the urinary tract. In November 2002, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the US National Institutes of Health, initiated funding research on the role of cranberry to promote a healthy urinary tract.

Another breakthrough use is in coconut water therapy to address renal disorders. "Biolysis," the brainchild of Filipino urologist Dr. Eufemio Macalalag Jr., is the medical process of reducing or dissolving urinary stones of the urinary tract system using buko water from 7 to 9 months old coconuts. Water from one mature coconut drank daily, could almost ensure that formation of stones in the urinary tract will be avoided.

“When I noticed small drops of blood in my urine, I panicked and I asked my mom to rush me to the ER that night. I was confined for two days for acute cystitis. The pain I went through was so bad, it felt like a nightmare!” ends Anne.

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