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Urinary tract infection may not mean sexual infidelity

By Vision Reporter

Added 13th June 2006 03:00 AM

URINARY tract infection (UTI) is a common infection that usually occurs when bacteria enter the opening of the urethra (urinary tract) and multiply. It can also move to the bladder causing a bladder infection (cystitis).

URINARY tract infection (UTI) is a common infection that usually occurs when bacteria enter the opening of the urethra (urinary tract) and multiply. It can also move to the bladder causing a bladder infection (cystitis).

By Herbert J. Mugarura

URINARY tract infection (UTI) is a common infection that usually occurs when bacteria enter the opening of the urethra (urinary tract) and multiply. It can also move to the bladder causing a bladder infection (cystitis).

If not treated promptly, bacteria may infect the kidneys (pyelonephritis) or even lead to reduced kidney function (Uraemia) and possibly death.

In most UTI cases I have handled, couples quarrel and accuse each other of unfaithfulness and having brought ‘a veneral disease from ‘outside’. This encourages self medication among some people to avoid embarrassments. But generally, UTI does not always arise from sexual infidelity.

Incidence

Females are more vulnerable because of the vagina’s proximity to the anus and the shorter urethra length to the bladder. Mostly, UTI are caused by bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli), which are found in the colon (large intestines) and consequently in the anus. UTI are extremely uncommon in males because of their anatomy.

The elderly are more prone to developing cystitis due to incomplete emptying of the bladder because of such conditions as the swelling of the prostate gland and narrowing of the urethra.

Causes and risk factors

The type of bacteria involved matters for instance Staphylococcus saprophyticus type contributes to about 10 % of the UTI. Those infected with Chlamydia trachomatis, and Mycoplasma hominis can transmit the bacteria to their partners during sexual intercourse.

Other possible causes include failure to urinate when you should causing the bladder to enlarge, not emptying the bladder fully because you are in a hurry, constipation, inflammation of the vulva or damage to the bladder nerves.

Sexual intercourse triggers UTI in some women for unknown reasons. Some birth control methods like diaphragm develop infections more often and condoms with spermicidal foam may cause the growth of E. coli in the vagina.
Urinary catheterization (insertion of a small tube into the bladder through the urethra to drain urine) can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract.

In infants, bacteria from soiled diapers can enter the urethra to cause UTI. Bacteria may also enter the urethral opening when girls wipe themselves from back to front after bowel movements.

Other risk factors include bladder outlet obstructions (like kidney stones), congenital abnormalities (like posterior valves of the urethra in boys) and suppressed immune system.

Symptoms

These may include nausea and vomiting, fever, fatigue, chills, pressure in the lower pelvis, burning sensation and painful urination (dysuria), frequent urination and pelvic pain as soon as your bladder fills.

Other signs include cloudy urine, blood in urine (haematuria), foul smelling urine, mental changes and confusion especially in the elderly. In children and babies, there may be no specific symptoms, other than an irritable, feverish or drowsy vomiting, child refusing to take meals.

Handling

A urine analysis can reveal the real cause of the symptoms. Other tests such as abdominal ultrasound, abdominal X-ray and urine culture may be needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment and the status of the renal system.

Mild cases may disappear spontaneously without treatment. Simple antibiotics and plenty of fluids can flush out some infection. Acidifying medications, such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may be recommended to decrease the concentration of bacteria in the urine.

You can get it from all fruits, vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, turnip greens and other leafy greens. Other excellent sources include mango, watermelon, cauliflower, cabbage and pineapples.

Chronic or recurrent UTI may need long time treatment (six months) with stronger antibiotics and monitoring for two years to reduce chances of kidney infection.

Prevention
Keep the genital area clean and for women, after visiting the toilet, wipe from front to back to reduce the chance of dragging bacteria from the rectal area to the vagina.

Urinating immediately before and after sex may eliminate any bacteria that may have been introduced and frequent urination may reduce the risk of cystitis in those who are prone to UTI.
Sexual styles which can sweep germs from the anus into the urethra should be avoided.

Drinking a lot of fluids encourages frequent urination that flushes out bacteria from the bladder. Avoid caffeinated fluids, alcohol and citrus juices that irritate the bladder.

Long-term use of preventative antibiotics may be recommended for some people who are prone to chronic or recurrent urinary tract infections.

Learn about alternatives to spermicides, including safe condoms and safer sex techniques and discuss them with your partner and health care provider.

Spermicides can alter the variety of bacterial flora in the vagina, killing off friendly bacteria and allowing pathogenic ones to flourish, causing an infection.
Boosting the body’s immune system by eating well, exercising, refraining from smoking, and getting enough sleep can help to ward off UTI.

If the UTI is the sexually transmitted type, treatment requires both partners.

The writer is a medical doctor
mugarrajk@doctor.com

Urinary tract infection may not mean sexual infidelity

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