Daily Health Tips: Re-Visiting Chronic UTIs


Q: Hi Dr I am from Tanzania. I am suffering from UTIs and I have had this several times. So can I use dilute antiseptic liquid for my daily vagina washing? Does it work in prevention of UTIs?
 
A: Urinary Tract Infections occur anywhere in the urinary tract (Genius me, right :D) and include infections of the kidneys, the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder (the reservoir or store house for the urine) and the urethra (the tube that transports the urine from the bladder to the outside).
 
So, who is more likely to have an infection and why? Women are more likely to have infections and this is because they have short urethrae (those tubes that transport the urine outside) and because the opening of this tube is very close to the opening of the anus. And so, if a woman urinates and has not quite mastered the art of cleaning from the front to the back, she could transfer bacteria from her anus to her urethra and this in turn travels up and infects the bladder.
 
Women who also use the birth control method, diaphragm appear to also be at risk as it may cause the bladder not to empty completely when they urinate. Indeed, not urinating immediately after sexual intercourse in women may also predispose to this as the urethra may have may have become irritated, making it easier for germs to move in. People with depressed immune systems, frequent constipation and some people born with some disorders of their uro-genital system are also prone to UTIs. In men, narrowing of the urethra which may happen in men who have had straddle injuries (eg falling astride {with legs apart} on a pole…ouch!), history of STIs or prostrate problems may make a man open to UTIs.
 
Recurrent and chronic urinary tract infections (UTI that keeps recurring) may be due to changes in hormone (estrogen) level as one gets to menopause, problems with the urinary tract in terms of function or shape, kidney or bladder stones, bacteria getting into the urinary tract during sexual intercourse etc
What symptoms does a person with UTI have? They would complain of feeling they have to urgently urinate often and then when they do get to the toilet, they can only pass out very little urine, pain or burning sensation during urination, pain in the flank (just under the ribs at the back), the urine may be cloudy or reddish or coke coloured, fever with chills and rigours etc.
UTIs have to be treated because these infections could keep back tracking from the urethra to the bladder to the ureters and then to the kidneys…we don’t want that do we?! 😉
 
Treatment is focused on eradicating the infection…of course 😀 Usually a urine sample is taken to the lab. Part of the lab work is a culture and sensitivity test to find out the organisms causing the infection and the specific antibiotic that is active against it. Please take your prescription for the right period of time even if your symptoms disappear before you finish. Your doctor may also order other tests as he sees fit eg checking out for congenital defects etc.
 
Apart from the preventive tips above, be sure to drink lots of water which help dilute your urine and help flush out the bacteria.
Now as for using antiseptic fluid for intimate cleansing…..Hmm, this is a question I’ve been asked often and it does make sense to ask 🙂 You would want to wash your vagina with disinfectant or perhaps antiseptic soap to make sure that you kill off all the germs, right? Wrong!
 
There are some bacteria that are actually useful in the body. Those found in the vagina, mainly lactobacillus, fall into this group. They produce substances that help to fight the growth of fungi (candida) and other unwanted organisms. So, when you wash with antibacterial soap or disinfected water, you mess with that natural balance in your intimate parts leading to overgrowth of unwanted organisms like candida.
 
Another similar activity is douching. Vaginal douches usually contain water and vinegar. Others have antiseptics and fragrances in addition. These douches are usually sprayed upwards into the vagina to ‘clean’ it up. Apart from destroying the hard-working bacteria which ‘protect’ the ‘intimates’, it can also lead to irritation of the very delicate vaginal skin.
 
Other activities that can cause over-growth of the vagina by unwanted organisms are abuse of antibiotics, a weak immune system from disease or stress and the hormonal imbalance that can occur in pregnancy.
 
So, the feeling better is really all in the psyche. No real work is being done. Truth is, if there is actually an infection, the douche and disinfectant et al are unlikely to be able to deal with them! So, there 😀
 
So ladies, all you need is…clean hands, soap that is not perfumed (if you can tolerate it) and water; c’est finis!
Have a great evening!
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