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Link Between Diabetes and Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Diabetes is a chronic illness affecting the body’s ability to use sugar from food as energy. It is linked with various health complications including urinary tract infections.

People who have diabetes their body cannot utilize the hormone insulin properly or cannot make it properly, thereby increasing blood sugar levels. Other health complications related to diabetes include heart disease and stroke.

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The Link between Diabetes and UTI

Urinary tract infection is common in those with diabetes.(1) UTI affects the urinary system which includes the kidney, bladder, and urethra. It occurs when the urinary system gets infected by bacteria.

Diabetes may increase the risk of developing urinary tract infections. High blood sugar might affect the blood flow by the damage caused to the nerves due to diabetes.(2) This may affect a person’s ability to know when they want to urinate, leaving the urine in the bladder for a long. This gives time for the bacteria to grow.

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Diabetes may also weaken the immune system making it difficult for the body to react to the infection.(1) High blood sugar impairs the defense mechanism of the body. It can also reduce the level of psoriasin, which is a natural antibiotic in the body.

Psoriasin helps in stopping the bacteria from binding to the cells and multiplying in lining the bladder.

Risk Factors for Urinary Tract Infection

The risk factors for UTI include:(1)

  • UTI is more common in female
  • People suffering from diabetic neuropathy
  • Older people
  • Having a history of UTI
  • Being sexually active
  • Those with structural issues such as urinary tract

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection

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The symptoms of urinary tract infection differ in different individuals. Some common symptoms include:

  • Urge to urinate frequently
  • Dribbling of urine
  • Passing of a small quantity of urine despite urgency
  • Cloudy or blood in the urine
  • Pelvic pain in females
  • Rectal pain in males
  • Lower back pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

In infants the most common sign of UTI is fever.

Diabetes and UTIs During Pregnancy

Pregnant females are at an increased risk of UTI due to changes in the urinary tract. (3) It occurs due to the weight put on the structures by the developing fetus and due to the relaxing effects of progesterone.

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Pregnant people who develop gestational diabetes or have pre-existing diabetes have a greater risk of developing UTIs. The prevalence of UTI is estimated to be 3-10.1% in pregnant people without diabetes.(3) It can be higher in those with diabetes.

Diabetes and Urinary Tract Infection in Older People

The prevalence of diabetes with urinary tract infections is more in older individuals. The factors causing it may include:(4)

  • Long-term diabetes
  • Sugar in urine
  • High glycated hemoglobin levels
  • White blood cells in urine
  • Increased ability of bacteria to bind with the urinary tract lining
  • Poor circulation
  • Dysfunctional bladder

Dementia is another condition in old age that may make it more challenging to manage diabetes and prevent urinary tract infections.(5)

How to Treat Urinary Tract Infection alongside Diabetes

Urinary tract infection is treated in a similar way in diabetics as in other people without diabetes. Mostly antibiotics are prescribed.

However, the choice of antibiotics may depend on certain antimicrobial and diabetes medications.

The treatment may also depend on the person’s age, type of infection, underlying condition, and site of infection (lower or upper urinary tract).

How to Prevent Urinary Tract in Diabetes?

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can be the first step toward preventing diabetes. This can be done by:

Individuals with diabetes, if notice any symptoms of urinary tract infection, should contact the doctor for treatment. If not treated UTIs can lead to serious complications and people with diabetes are more at risk of it.

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