About Lower Urinary Tract Infection
A lower urinary tract infection is common among women of all ages, specifically between the age ranges of 40-60 years. In many women, these symptoms come and disappear. However, in some women, these symptoms are continuous and they interfere in their normal life. The symptoms are passing urine frequently, discomfort during passing the urine or wetting yourself. Doctors may recommend tests for looking into the underlying causes and you may be referred to any specialist too.
Symptoms of Lower Urinary Tract Infection
The lower urinary tract includes the urethra and the bladder. Normally, most of the lower urinary tract infection symptoms in women occur due to the urine infections in the bladder. The symptoms can be grouped into three categories:
- Problems related to urine storage in the bladder
- Problems in passing urine
- Problems after the passage of urine.
Sometimes, the symptoms fall into more than one of the groups and at times, women have symptoms of just a single group. Some of the symptoms experienced by the patients are:
- Stinging or burning while passing urine
- Constant lower abdominal ache
- Frequent passing of urine
- An urgent need to empty the bladder
- Incontinence of bladder
- Urinating several times at night
- Feeling the requirement to empty the bladder even after urination
- Difficulty in urinating
- Slow urine stream.
Causes of Lower Urinary Tract Infection
The lower urinary tract infections occur when bacteria get into the urinary tract via urethra and they multiply inside the bladder. Though this system is designed for keeping away the microscopic invaders, the defenses at times fail. When it happens, bacteria cause infections in the tract. Commonly, these infections occur in women and they affect the urethra and the bladder. The other causes of lower urinary tract infections include:
- Cystitis or Infection of the Bladder: It is caused particularly by E.coli or Escherichia coli, a kind of bacteria found commonly in the GI or gastrointestinal tract. There could be other bacteria’s also who are responsible for causing lower urinary tract infection. Sexual intercourse may also cause it but even women who are not sexually active can also get it. All women possess the risk of cystitis due to their anatomy- short distance of urethra and anus and urethral opening to the urinary bladder.
- Urethritis or Infection of the Urethra: This infection happens when gastrointestinal tract bacteria spread to the urethra from anus. As the female urethra is located close to the vagina, the sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, herpes, mycoplasma, and chlamydia may cause urethritis.
Complications of Lower Urinary Tract Infection
When the infection is treated properly and promptly, the lower urinary tract infections rarely lead to complications. However, when left untreated, this infection may have serious complications. The complications may include the following:
- Recurrent infections, particularly in women who go through either two or more lower urinary tract infections within a period of six months in a year.
- Permanent damage of kidney from the chronic kidney infection because of the untreated infection.
- Enhanced risk in expecting women to deliver low weight babies or premature babies.
- Urethral narrowing in men.
- Sepsis, a life-threatening complication, specifically when the infection moves up into the urinary tract or to the kidneys.
Diagnosis of Lower Urinary Tract Infection
When the symptoms indicate a lower urinary tract infection, seek the advice of the doctors as quickly as possible. The doctor may diagnose it completely based on the symptoms or they may confirm the infection by doing a simple dipstick test of urine. The urine sample will be sent to the laboratories to test and identify the actual cause of the infection and for determining the antibiotic treatment that will be perfectly suitable.
You may be advised for an ultrasound scan on the urinary tract and the bladder. You may have to visit an urologist for the tests of the urinary system. Urodynamic tests study the working of a bladder and can see how the pelvic floor and the urinary system work.
Treatment of Lower Urinary Tract Infection
Antibiotics are generally the first line of treatment for infections in the urinary tract. The drugs are prescribed depending on the patient’s health condition and the kind of bacteria found in the urine.
The commonly recommended drugs for lower urinary tract infection include the following:
- Fosfomycin (Monurol)
- Cephalexin (Keflex)
- Nitrofurantoin (Macrobid, Macrodantin)
- Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Septra, Bactrim, others)
When the infection is not that complicated and happens in otherwise healthy people, doctors usually advise short-term treatment like taking antibiotics for 1-3 days. Whether the short treatment course can treat the infection depends on the medical history and the symptoms. Doctors may prescribe analgesic, which numbs the urethra and bladder for relieving the burn during urination.
When you suffer from frequent infections, the doctor advice the following treatment plan:
- Low-dose antibiotics for a period of 6 months or maybe even longer
- Vaginal Estrogen therapy for postmenopausal
- A single antibiotic dose after sexual intercourse in case the infections have a relation with sexual activity.
- For severe infection, patients may require treatment in a hospital with intravenous antibiotics.
Prevention of Lower Urinary Tract Infection
To reduce the chances of having recurrent urinary tract infections or for preventing it, these steps could be followed:
- Drinking Adequate Fluid: Drinking sufficient water can help you in diluting your urine and make sure that you urinate very frequently. This allows the bacteria to get flushed from the urinary tract before any infection can happen.
- Drink Cranberry Juice to reduce Lower Urinary Tract Infection: Cranberry juice is good to prevent urinary tract infection. The cranberry products, either in the tablet or the juice form have the infection-fighting characteristics. For the majority of people, drinking cranberry juice does not cause any harm; however, some people may report diarrhea or upset stomach.
- Avoid Caffeinated Drinks: Avoid alcohol, coffee, and soft drinks till you clear your infection. This irritates the bladder and aggravates the need for frequent urination.
- Wipe from Front to the Back: Wiping from front to back after urination and after any bowel movement helps in preventing bacteria in an anal region to spread to the urethra and vagina. This helps in preventing a lot of infection.
- Empty the bladder just after the intercourse.
- Avoid using Feminine Products: Using the feminine products or the deodorant sprays like the powders and the douches in the area of the genitals may irritate the urethra and slowly cause lower urinary tract infection.
- Change the Birth Control Method: The spermicide, the unlubricated condoms or the diaphragms can lead to the growth of bacteria. Instead of using these, talk to your doctor to learn about other birth control methods which would not aggravate the lower urinary tract infection.
When you have a lower urinary tract infection, the antibiotic treatments generally cures the infection. If it is left untreated, then the infection may spread to the upper urinary tract also and more serious complications may occur. So, proper treatment can cure it completely.
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