A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system that includes your kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra.
UTIs are common infections that develop when bacteria (often from the skin or rectum) enter the urethra and infect the urinary tract. The infections can affect several parts of the urinary tract and the most common type is a bladder infection (cystitis).
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection (UTIs)
You may have a UTI if you experience one of more of the following:
- Burning or pain during urination
- Frequent urges to urinate
- Cloudy, dark, bloody, or strong-smelling urine
- Fatigue or shakiness
- Pressure or cramping in the lower abdomen or back
- Feeling tired or shaky
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Pregnancy
The symptoms of urinary tract infections (UTI) in pregnancy are often similar to the non- pregnant individuals, but unfortunately, may also be asymptomatic or atypical in presentation at times.
As UTIs during pregnancy can lead to serious complications, such as preterm labor and low birth weight, it is important for pregnant women to seek medical attention promptly if they suspect they have a UTI or are experiencing any unusual symptoms.
Preventive measures such as staying well hydrated and practicing good hygiene can also help reduce the risk of UTIs and their potential complications, including premature birth.
Causes of Urinary Tract Infection (UTIs)
Some common causes include:
- Bacteria from the gut, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), which are the most common cause of UTIs.
- Poor hygiene
- Sexual activity
- Blocked urinary tract
- Having a weakened immune system – from chemotherapy or HIV, for example
- Using certain devices, such as a urinary catheter
Treatment for UTIs
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are usually treated with antibiotics. The specific antibiotic used and the length of treatment depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection and the individual’s overall health. It is important to complete the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if symptoms improve before finishing the medication, to prevent the infection from returning or becoming resistant to antibiotics.
Managing UTI symptoms may also include pain relievers, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding irritants like caffeine and alcohol.
Ways to help prevent UTIs
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common problem, but there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing one.
Here are some tips for preventing UTIs:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps flush bacteria out of your urinary tract, reducing your risk of infection.
- Urinate regularly: Holding in urine for too long can allow bacteria to grow, so it’s important to empty your bladder frequently.
- Wipe from front to back: After using the toilet, make sure to wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the urethra.
- Avoid irritants: Certain products, such as harsh soaps, bubble baths, and scented tampons, can irritate the urethra and increase your risk of UTI.
- Wear breathable underwear: Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight pants can help reduce moisture and prevent the growth of bacteria.
- Empty your bladder before and after sexual activity: This helps to flush out any bacteria that may have entered the urinary tract during intercourse.
- Avoid delaying urination: If you feel the urge to go, try to go as soon as possible to reduce the risk of bacteria building up in your urinary tract.
What happens if a UTI goes untreated?
If a urinary tract infection (UTI) is left untreated, it can lead to serious complications. Some of the potential consequences of an untreated UTI include:
- Spread of infection: UTIs can spread from the bladder to the kidneys, leading to a more serious kidney infection (pyelonephritis).
- Chronic UTIs: Recurrent UTIs can lead to chronic infections and damage to the urinary tract.
- Kidney damage: If a UTI spreads to the kidneys and is left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to these organs.
- Septicemia: In severe cases, an untreated UTI can lead to septicemia, a serious bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body and cause life-threatening complications.
- Preterm labor: UTIs during pregnancy can lead to preterm labor and delivery.
If you suspect you have a UTI, it is important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Dr Paul Tseng Seng Loke
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist with sub-specialty training in Urogynaecology
TLC Gynaecology Practice
339 Thomson Road
#03-02 Thomson Medical Centre
Tel: +65 6254 2878
Dr Paul Tseng Seng Loke is an Obstetrics & Gynaecology specialist with extensive years of experience in the O&G field. In 1995, he left Singapore General Hospital where he was a consultant to set up his own private practice.
His sub-specialty training is in Urogynaecology (which is the management of female incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction) and sub-fertility management.