An Ogun State-based internal medicine specialist, Dr Olusina Ajidahun, discusses the causes, prevention and treatment of Urinary Tract Infection in this interview with OPEYEMI ADEFEMI
what is UTI?
UTI means Urinary Tract Infection, which is an infection along the urinary tract in humans, which is the passageway for urine. This is an infection which can affect both the male and female genders. The urinary tract is made up of the ureter, which connects the kidney to the bladder; and the urethra, which drains urine from the bladder to outside the body.
The kidney produces urine, it flows through the ureters, and then it is temporarily stored in the bladder, from where it flows out via the urethra. Once there is an infection in any of these tracts, that is what is called urinary tract infection, since these tracts are all interconnected.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.532.0_en.html#goog_1322382993
Is there any other term for UTI?
Some people call it toilet infection and other names but the medical name is Urinary Tract Infection. As I said, it affects both the male gender and female gender but women are more likely to have UTI than men, reason being that the urethra in female is shorter compared to that of male. And for this reason, it shortens the distance that bacteria or any organism must travel to reach the bladder. That is why doctors always emphasise that when females want to clean up, they should wipe from front to back and not the other way round because if they wipe from back to front, they can transfer organisms from the anus into the vagina and this can trigger off an infection.
Another point is that if someone has some conditions that they are born with, which are called congenital, these can increase their risk of getting UTI. Also, people with certain conditions, such as diabetes, prostrate problems and the like, can also have UTI. A patient on catheter is also at risk of UTI. Catheter is a tube inserted into the bladder through the urethra to drain urine from patient who are unable to do so naturally or for some other medical reasons. The longer the catheter stays in the bladder, the greater the risk of UTI. So, that is why after 48 to 72 hours, it is advised that catheter should be removed.
Also, elderly people are at a high risk of UTI.
What are the early signs of UTI?
Sometimes the patient might not feel anything early enough. Consequently, what brings most people to the hospital is when a lot of them say they are having pains during urination, which is a very common sign. Some people can have a burning sensation while urinating; and depending on how high up the urinary tract the UTI gets, the patient can also see blood or discharge in their urine. One thing about UTI is that it migrates from one organ to others, if it is not treated well or early. When the urine is tested, there will be bacteria in the urine. Also, a sign is when urine smells badly and in men. In some cases, the patient can also have fever and begin to throw up.
What organisms are responsible for UTI?
It is caused by various organisms, ranging from bacteria to fungi, etc, but the commonest cause is bacteria.
Normally, urine is sterile, meaning it is clean and doesn’t have any organisms in it. But when you have some organisms getting into the urine it can cause some infections and there are a lot of them. One bacterium that commonly causes UTI is E. coli (Eschericha coli). When these organisms get into the urine, they grow and multiply.
What are possible complications if UTI is not properly treated?
Firstly, UTI causes pains and the patient won’t be able to urinate easily; they feel some pains, which can be unbearable. Urinary Tract Infection, if it is not treated, keeps traveling up to the kidney until it gets into the blood. If it is not treated at the level of the urethra, it will first go to the bladder to cause what it is called cystitis. Then from the bladder it climbs up to the kidney, causing pyelonephritis, from there, it travels into the blood. If care is not taken, it can lead to sepsis, which is body’s life-threatening response to overwhelming infection or injury. It can lead to multi-organ failure, and even death. I have seen many people die from sepsis. It is important to contact a doctor once one gets any symptoms of UTI.
Can UTI be completely cured?
Well, it is an infection that can be completely cured when it is well treated. If the right diagnosis and treatments are undertaken, the patient will turn out fine.
The severity depends on when the person gets to the hospital or commences treatment and the diagnosis made. Once the infection spreads to the upper urinary tract, it is much more difficult to treat than the early stage and can spread into the blood which is life life-threatening.
It can lead to permanent kidney damage and septic shock where some of the organs stop functioning. It is very important to note that professional treatment is the way to go about this infection rather than self-medication and abusing antibiotics. Early treatment of this infection is the best thing to do.
Do UTI symptoms in men differ from those in women?
The symptoms can be the same in both genders. There are no specific differences in the way it affects men and women. It’s just that because men have prostrate, if the infection gets into the prostrate it can infect the prostate causing prostatitis.
How common is the condition?
It is actually very common. I don’t have the exact statistics but is a very common infection.
Is it age-related?
Children can have UTI; old people, young people can have it. UTI can happen to anyone. But elderly people and women have higher chances of having it than men.
Is it sexually transmitted?
No, it is not a sexually-transmitted disease neither can it be transferred from mother to child.
Are there diets a UTI patient should avoid or take seriously?
There is no food that will increase your chances at having UTI. Though there might be some foods that can help acidify the urine. Well, what I say is that people should go to hospital when they have the symptoms.
It is so easy to treat once it is discovered at the early stage. A lot of people come to the hospital with UTI and go back to their offices or even go home to take their medications. It is not something that can be seen in a person’s physical appearance. It is when there are complications that there might be a need to admit them.
Is there a link between the use of condoms, birth control pills and UTI?
I won’t agree with anyone that says condom can cause UTI, except if the condom is unhygienic or maybe during sex people insert stuffs. As for birth control bills, I won’t say it increases one’s chances of getting UTI.
What are the common misconceptions about UTI?
Some ladies believe sharing toilet can give them UTI, but this is totally untrue. Sharing toilet can’t give you UTI.
A lot of people also don’t know the difference between UTI and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and some think UTI is sexually transmitted, which is not true. A lot of people think men cannot have UTI; but men can have it. These are some of the commonest misconceptions about UTI.
Source: The Punch