Feel like peeing all the time? You might have a urinary tract infection (UTI) that’s super common but rarely talked about. We’re here to fix that. Here’s what to look out for so you can seek early treatment.
Do you feel pain or a burning sensation whenever you pee? Or keep feeling like you have to pee though your bladder is relatively empty? You just might have a UTI. These symptoms can be as painful as they are embarrassing, but if you suspect you have a UTI, fret not, as it’s actually a very common problem.
According to Dr Michael Wong, Urologist at Mount Elizabeth’s International Urology, Fertility and Gynaecology Centre, a UTI affects two in five women here and is actually the seventh leading cause of death in Singapore.
There are three main types, each involving the infection of a specific part of the urinary tract, namely the urethra, bladder and kidneys. But as long as you get yourself checked as soon as possible, your chances of peeing painlessly again very soon are high.
A UTI has several causes. If you wipe from back to front after peeing, the bacteria from your anus can make its way to your urethra, which can result in an infection. The odds increase if you have kidney stones or issues emptying your bladder completely. You may also be at higher risk just by being sexually active or pregnant. As long as bacteria is introduced into your urinary tract, there’s a chance that you might get a UTI. And since women have a shorter urethra than men, we’re more prone to getting infected.
The warning signs
So how do you know if you’re suffering from a UTI? Besides feeling a burning sensation when you pee, other symptoms to look out for include having cloudy or bad-smelling urine, and a tender or heavy belly. If these symptoms are accompanied with a fever, nausea or a pain in one side of your back, it might be a sign that the infection has reached your kidneys.
What to do
Most UTIs are bladder infections that go away if treated immediately, but can be life-threatening if left untreated. “A bladder infection can spread to your kidneys. A kidney infection is serious and can cause sepsis, a potentially fatal full-body inflammation,” says Dr Wong.
Some women get recurrent UTIs, and doctors are still trying to understand why. “For reasons that are not well understood, some women get bladder infections repeatedly when their immunity is down,” says Dr Wong.
See a doctor immediately if you suspect you have a UTI. She will first take a sample of your urine. Most of the time, the treatment will be simple. “Antibiotics usually cure a bladder infection. It helps to drink lots of water so that you urinate often, and to empty your bladder each time. If you have kidney stones, removal will be part of the treatment,” says Dr Wong.
If you have a recurrent infection or there are additional conditions present, other tests such as an X-ray or an endoscopy (a nonsurgical procedure to examine the digestive tract) may be required to find out more about the cause. Prevention is always better than cure, and you can lower your risk by flushing out the bacteria before they get a chance to grow. “Drink lots of water, urinate often and do not try to hold your pee in. Also, urinate right after having sex,” says Dr Wong. While a UTI is usually harmless, it can be fatal. It can also adversely affect your fertility or the growth of your fetus if you’re pregnant, so never wait till it’s too late.
The one celeb who has talked a lot about her UTI…
Lena Dunham has been open about her recurrent UTI. In a candid interview with Jimmy Kimmel, she said that she’s “had them all over the world”, but that it was in Japan that she got the best treatment. “The worst place was Germany… at this point, I just bring my own medication [when I travel],” she added.
Images 123RF.com, TPG/ClickPhotos Text Adora Wong.