MOST women have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a urinary tract infection (UTI) at least once in their lives. Described by Dr Keisha Buchanan, obstetrician-gynaecologist at ICON Medical Centre, as one of the commonest infections that pregnant as well as and non-pregnant women will encounter, she said that there are measures women can take to keep UTIs at bay.
“UTIs include infections of the urinary system, including the bladder and kidneys. The bladder is more commonly affected, and if left untreated or inadequately treated it may ascend to the kidneys,” she said.
She pointed out that the infection may be triggered by a number of germs, the most common being bacteria. These bacteria, she explained, most commonly come from the skin around the urethra (the tube-like structure through which urine passes from the bladder to be excreted), the vagina and the anus.
“In the case of men in whom UTIs are a rarity, those affected are usually uncircumcised. This is because the foreskin can trap bacteria which can spread and cause UTIs,” Dr Buchanan advised.
To combat UTIs, Dr Buchanan said that the following guidelines, while not guarantees, are your best bet.
“Hygiene is important to prevent UTIs. Proper wiping of the female genital area from front to back will prevent contamination,” Dr Buchanan said. She explained that wiping from back to front after passing urine or stool or when bathing will cause more bacteria to spread to the urethra from the anus or from the vagina. In the case of men, she encouraged uncircumcised men to pull back the foreskin of the penis and clean it often.
Urinate after sexual intercourse
Women urinating after sex can help to prevent UTIs as bacteria pushed up into the lower urethra during sex can be washed out.
Avoid using artificial products in the vaginal region
“Avoid things that can irritate the entrance to the urethra such as spermicides and deodorant sprays applied to the female genital region,” Dr Buchanan advised. She said irritation caused by the use of these products and recurrent itching in the region of the urethra can cause bacteria to ascend into the urethra.
Treat yeast infections immediately
Though you may be tempted to watch and wait especially if the itch from your yeast infection isn't unbearable, when yeast infections go untreated, they can cause bacteria to travel to the urethra.
Avoid holding up the urine
“Even though throughout the day women may be busy at work or caring for the children, you must never ignore the urge to pass urine. This can cause the bacteria in the bladder to multiply and trigger a UTI. Also, try to keep well hydrated, drinking six to eight glasses of water per day and urinating at least six times per day,” Dr Buchanan advised.
Avoid staying in tight clothes
“Wear clothing that allows the genital region to breathe freely. Wearing tight-fitting clothing and non-porous underwear such as some made of synthetic material will cause the trapping of sweat and dirt particles that allow bacteria to multiply and ascend into the urethra,” Dr Buchanan said. She recommends instead wearing cotton underwear and more loose-fitting pants and shorts which will allow the genital area to remain dry and prevent the proliferation of bacteria.
Up your cranberry and orange juice intake
Drinking red cranberry juice to prevent UTIs has not been scientifically proven; however, drinking cranberry juice or orange juice acidifies the urine, making Methenamine Hippurate (a urinary anti-infective medicine used to treat and prevent UTIs) more effective. It prevents the growth of bacteria and helps to decrease the need for antibiotics as well as prevents the development of antibiotic resistance.
Consider oestrogen therapy
For post-menopausal women, the lack of the hormone oestrogen can thin out the genital skin and urethra, making them more susceptible to UTIs. Using oestrogen vaginal gels can even help to prevent diabetes.
Stay on top of other medical conditions
Some patients have underlying conditions that cause UTIs such as diabetes, bladder stones, and conditions that prevent the bladder emptying such as a prolapse of the vagina or uterus. So you always want to make sure that you are managing these conditions well to reduce the possibility of UTIs. Treatment to correct bladder emptying such as surgeries or a ring pessary for prolapse can prevent UTIs.