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All about urinary tract infections

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A urinary tract infection (UTI) can be very uncomfortable, and should be treated as soon as possible so it doesn’t develop into a more serious infection.

A UTI occurs when bacteria (usually from the bowel) enters the urinary tract via the urethra (the tube that goes from the bladder to the outside). The bacteria can cause infection in the urethra, the bladder or the kidneys.

The most common symptom of a UTI is a painful, burning sensation when passing urine.

Signs and symptoms of UTIs

Usually you’ll experience two or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain, burning or stinging when passing urine
  • Needing to urinate often
  • Passing only a small amount of urine at a time
  • Having the sensation of incomplete emptying after urinating
  • Needing to urinate urgently (without much warning)
  • Discomfort just above the pubic area

Ensure you speak to your Unichem Pharmacist or doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or a hot and cold feeling
  • Vomiting or feeling like you are going to vomit
  • Pain on the sides of the lower back (over the kidney area)
  • Smelly or cloudy urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Feeling particularly unwell

Treatment for UTIs

If you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection, do not delay getting checked and starting a suitable treatment. If a UTI isn’t treated correctly the infection can spread to the kidneys and become more serious.

Antibiotics

If you meet certain criteria, your Unichem Pharmacist can give you an antibiotic called Trimethoprim, without a prescription. They’ll ask you a few questions to see if Trimethoprim is appropriate for you or recommend that you visit your doctor.

Urinary alkalisers

Urinary alkalisers can provide relief from the painful burning symptoms of a UTI. Check with your Unichem Pharmacist before using any product as it may interact with other medicines you are taking.

Other tips

  • Rest and keep warm – place a hot water bottle or wheat bag on your stomach to help with the pain
  • Drink as much water as you can to help flush the bacteria out of your urinary tract
  • Pass urine in the shower or pour water over the area while you urinate – this may reduce the discomfort
  • Take a pain reliever if necessary
  • Avoid alcohol, fruit juices, strong coffee, or fizzy drinks as they can make your urine more acidic

Preventing UTIs

Some women are more at risk of getting a UTI than others, for example women who are pregnant, diabetic or post-menopausal. Some people, regardless of age or gender, are more susceptible than others.

To reduce your chance of developing a UTI there are several things you can do.

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration
  • Take time to empty your bladder as completely as possible each time you pass urine
  • Go to the toilet as soon as you feel the need and try not to hold on
  • Wash and urinate before and after sexual activity to flush away any bacteria
  • Gently wipe front to back after going to the toilet
  • Avoid using vaginal deodorants or douches
  • Wear cotton underpants

Probiotics

Probiotics are often promoted for urinary tract health. Evidence shows that probiotic supplements containing lactobacillus acidophilus can be beneficial for gastrointestinal health, and they may also reduce the rate of recurrence of UTIs in women prone to these infections.

Cranberry

Cranberry juice or supplements are also often recommended to help prevent UTIs. The berries have been found to contain an active ingredient which can stop bacteria adhering to the urinary tract wall. However, they cannot cure a UTI and most studies show there is not enough of the special ingredient to have a real effect on reducing the occurrence of infections.

Your Unichem Pharmacist will be happy to discuss supplements and other preventative measures with you – in private, no appointment needed.

Kathy – Pharmacist, Unichem Hillpark Pharmacy, Manurewa