What you need to know about UTIs

toilet bowl
No one likes that painful feeling during a UTI.

woA Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is never a pleasant experience.

As we age UTIs can become more common due to changes to our urinary system affecting the kidneys, urethra, bladder and ureters, which make it more difficult for our bodies to rid themselves of bad bacteria.

UTIs occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract and multiplies. While both men and women can be affected, women are more prone to the condition because they have a shorter urethra, so it’s easier for bacteria to enter their bladder.

Some key changes to our urinary tract as we age include:

  • The number and size of nephrons (filtering units in the kidneys) decreases, meaning your body cannot flush toxins out as well as it used to, leading to frequent urination and dehydration.
  • The kidneys becomes smaller and less blood flows through them.
  • The bladder becomes less flexible, meaning it can hold less urine and it becomes more difficult to squeeze hard enough to get rid of all the urine it contains resulting in more frequent urination.
  • The sensation of having to urinate is not as strong and may not be felt until the bladder is completely full, when the need is suddenly very urgent.
  • The sphincter (muscular ring that controls the passage of urine out of the body), becomes less flexible and is less able to close tightly and prevent leakage.
  • The urethra shortens and its lining becomes thinner.
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Treatment

UTIs are not considered a serious condition, but it left untreated the infection can spread to the kidneys and bloodstream and become life-threatening.

Doctors will usually prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and ease symptoms. While your symptoms may only last two to three days, the antibiotics course will often go for seven days to ensure the bacteria is removed.

There are also a number of natural treatments that doctors say can help to prevent UTIs and relieve symptoms.

Probiotics

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Studies suggest that live cultures, such as those found in probiotics and natural yoghurt, can be helpful. Harvard Health reports that probiotics may help prevent UTIs by promoting ‘good bacteria’ to keep the vagina healthy. Probiotics are found in tablet form at the pharmacy as well as fermented foods, such as yoghurt, some cheeses, raw sauerkraut and kombucha.

Vitamin C

This powerful vitamin helps keep urine acidic and balance bacteria in the urinary tract. You can take it in supplement form or consume plenty of vitamin C-rich foods, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, strawberries, blueberries, green leafy vegetables, and green capsicum.

Cranberries

Cranberries are often talked about as a helpful natural treatment for UTIs, but experts are split on whether or not they are truly effective. A recent study found that in reality they do little to help. That being said, doctors say there is no harm in taking a daily cranberry capsule if you feel it helps.

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Prevention

While UTIs are a recurring condition, experts say there are ways to help reduce their frequency and treat them both naturally and with medication.

If you’re prone to UTIs, try these small changes to help keep your urinary tracy and nether region clean.

  • Drink lots of fluid, particularly water, to wash bacteria from the bladder and urinary tract
  • Quickly treat a vaginal infection, such as thrush, by taking medication available over the counter
  • Avoid constipation
  • Do not delay going to the toilet when you need to
  • Wipe from front to back after urinating
  • Wear cotton underwear and use natural soaps to wash
  • Use only warm water when washing between your legs
  • Don’t use perfumed soaps, talcum powder or any type of deodorant between your legs
  • Avoid bubble baths and spas

*This is general advice, if you have symptoms of a UTI that worsen or notice blood in your urine, fever and back pain this could be a sign the infection has moved to your bladder and you should seek medical advice.

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Do you get UTIs often? How do you treat them?