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Expert Ways to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections

Dr Shobha Mathur, an eminent Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist shares her expert knowledge on precautions and ways to prevent Urinary Tract Infections better known as UTI infection.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

The liquid waste of our body urine is made and stored by the Urinary tract. Normal urine does not contain any germs or bacteria but they may be present in the rectal area and in the bowel movements. This bacteria travel to the urinary tract and urine, and may further cause infection in the bladder. When they sit there and multiply, the condition is called cystitis, characterized by inflammation- redness, swelling and pain. But, when the bacteria go upward to the kidney, an infection called pyelonephritis develops. This is a far more serious condition than a bladder infection.

Urinary Tract Infections are more common in women than men because of their anatomy. Though children can also get infected but they are less prone to it.

Diagnosis; watch out for these symptoms

  • Dysuria- Pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • Frequent need to urinate and the urge cannot be delayed
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and Vomiting
UTI are diagnosed by isolating the urinary pathogen from the patient and there are multiple tests available for the diagnosis. The number of bacteria and white blood cells in the urine sample help to decide the severity of the infection. The symptoms depend on the sex, age and location of the infection in the tract.

Prevention is the 'key'

For both men and women of all age groups, hygiene and cleanliness of private parts is very important. Therefore, proper personal hygiene and a few other simple tips can help prevent UTI.
  • Wear only cotton undergarments; do not sport any other materials. Wash them with a detergent everyday after use.
  • There is no need of using antiseptic in water to wash the private parts unless advised by the doctor. Antiseptics kill the normal protective bacterial layer of the skin and increase the chances of skin allergy and susceptibility to infections.
  • Drink plenty of oral liquids such as water, juice and coconut water.
  • To maintain safety in kids, mothers should check that their undergarments are always dry to prevent nappy rash. Playing in sand pits may lead to skin infections and then UTI if not cleaned properly.
It is important for men to know that circumcision helps in preventing STD, UTI and cancer. Also in old age, Prostatic Hypertrophy, which is enlargement of the prostrate gland, must be treated well in time because it increases the chances of UTI.

Important tips for women to stay fit and free of infections:

  • Women have an increased susceptibility due to small length of urethra; hence hygiene is important especially during menstruation cycle.
  • Always use clean and dry sanitary napkins. It is vital to wash your private parts daily.
  • On honeymoon, UTI is common problem but can be prevented by maintaining clean hygiene practices, increasing water intake and by having gentle sex.
  • Menstrual hygiene must be followed.
  • Do not wash from back (anal area) to front (vaginal area). Instead use a mild soap to lather from front to back and then wash with warm water. Doing so and avoiding the use of water jets in western toilet is a must. Instead Use hand held shower.
  • Ageing women develop senile atrophic degeneration of vagina, which increases incidence of UTI. After consultation from a gynecologist, use a medicated hormonal cream to avoid UTI.
The good news is that the UTI infection can be controlled with antibiotics if discovered at the right time. Therefore, follow healthy practices and if you still notice any symptom that is causing discomfort or is unusual, please see the doctor immediately.
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