Infection of any part of the urinary system, i.e. the kidneys, ureters (tubes that carry urine from kidney to bladder) and urinary bladder is more common in women for multiple reasons.
During their menstrual cycles, women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections as blood provides a rich medium for bacteria to grow. Dampness prevalent over the perineum due to the blood passing out continuously also facilitates entry, deposition and multiplication of germs.
If a woman has a sexually acquired disease, the chances of having urinary infections increase. Because of the close proximity of the pelvic and urinary organs, germs can easily pass on from one part to another.
Diabetic women have a high risk of developing urinary tract infections. In fact, urinary tract infection and infections of the vulva and vagina happen to be the most common infections occurring in women suffering from diabetes.
Most of the infections occur due to a microbe called Escherichia coli. This lies dormant in the intestines and under suitable circumstances multiplies to cause infections. Kleibsella and Proteusare other microbes infecting the urinary tract.
Women are also more susceptible to urinary tract infections during pregnancy and childbirth. In this case, not only are they affected but infection can contaminate the unborn child also.
An individual has the urge to pass urine more frequently if the urinary tract is infected. There is also an urgent desire to pass urine, which becomes inconvenient and at times embarrassing for women. Along with this, there is a sense of incomplete evacuation of the bladder. That is after passing urine, one feels that the bladder is not empty and has to go again.
Pain is associated with these infections. The pain may be felt in the flanks, radiate from loin to groin or occur in lower back and or abdomen. This depends on whether kidney, ureters or urinary bladder is infected. Infection can readily pass from one part of the urinary system to another increasing severity of illness. As in all other infections, fever is often present.
Some women may have recurrent urinary tract infections. An episode of infection, if not treated adequately, can become chronic causing persistent infection. If the chronic infection affects pelvic parts, there is risk of sterility and ectopic pregnancies in the future. This occurs due to the fallopian tubes being infected and blocked. In case of pregnancy, urinary infection can lead to abortion or retarded fetal growth.
Drinking lots of water ensures that all infectious germs are passed out from body through greater quantity of urine passed. Maintaining good pelvic hygiene and keeping oneself dry during menstruation minimizes risk of urinary tract infection.
Passing urine and washing the genitals immediately after sexual intercourse is a good practice in order to prevent pelvic and urinary tract infections.
Every woman should be aware of urinary tract infection, because it is a preventable illness. If it occurs, it can cause suffering and complications.
Dr. Rachna Pande specializes in internal medicine in Ruhengeri Hospital