Aparna (name changed) works in the field of social services and her work keeps her on the road very often. During these work trips, she dreads using public toilets. A few months ago, after a fairly long stint away from home she returned and started experiencing intense pain in her pelvic region and the frequent urge to pass urine. When she finally went to the doctor, she was told that she had a case of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection. About 40 per cent of women and 12 per cent of men experience at least one symptom of UTI during their lifetime while as many as 40 per cent of affected women suffer with recurrent UTI. It is also known to be one of the most common medical complications during pregnancies.
In this article, The Better India speaks to Dr Anjila Aneja, Director & HOD, Obstetrics and Gynecology – Fortis La Femme, New Delhi, who speaks at length about UTI.
What are Urinary Tract Infections?
UTI is an infection in any part of your urinary system, which includes bladder, kidney, urethra, and uterus. It can be extremely uncomfortable and painful and if allowed to spread to the kidneys, can also lead to serious consequences. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to treat UTI.
When asked why women are more prone to Urinary Tract Infections than men, Dr Aneja replies, “One of the most obvious answers to that lies in the anatomy of the male and female body. In women, the urethral opening is very close to the vagina as well as the anus – which makes it easy for bacteria from either the vagina or the anus to travel into the urethra and bladder causing infection. In men it is far apart.”
She continues, “Even the distance from the urethral opening to the bladder is less in women as compared to men.”
While this is one aspect of it, Dr Aneja informs that women who have multiple sexual partners and menopausal women are more prone to contracting UTI. “The change in hormones in the body can impact the levels of estrogen in the body and therefore it may become more susceptible to the infection,” shares Dr Aneja.
Can Public Toilets Cause Urinary Tract Infections?
Dr Aneja confirms that using public toilets, which may or may not be cleaned often and maintain good standards of hygiene can also lead to women contracting UTI.
“I would urge women not to use public western toilets, if you absolutely must, then use toilet seat sanitizer sprays that are available in the market. Whenever you are washing yourself do so from the front to the back and never the other way around,” warns Dr Aneja.
Having said this, Dr Aneja also adds a word of caution that women should refrain from hold their pee since that could also lead to urinary tract infections. “Exercise caution while using public washrooms, practice good intimate hygiene, and always carry a toilet seat sanitizer with you for better protection.”
• Keep yourself well hydrated all the time. Bring cranberry juice and apple juice in your diet.
• Do not use deodorants or creams near the vaginal area – this could also lead to infections. “Use regular soap and water to wash if you feel the need, else just water is good enough,” informs Dr Aneja.
• Wear cotton panties and change them often – “If the panties are wet do ensure that you change immediately to avoid getting infected.”
• Dr Aneja also says that one does not need to frequently wash their vaginal area as doing this might rob the area of the good bacteria it has
• When you are cleaning yourself, always remember to do so from the front to the back and never the other way around
• Avoid using public toilets, especially the ones that are very badly maintained
Symptoms that you should watch out for
• Persistent urge to pass urine which, in some cases, might be accompanied by pain while passing urine as well
• Increased frequency in passing urine but being able to pass only small quantities of urine each time
• A foul smell from the urine which otherwise was not present
• Presence of blood in urine
• A fever accompanied by vomiting is also reason to visit the doctor
• A burning sensation while passing urine
• Pelvic pain in women, especially around the area of the pubic bone
“Do remember that UTI can also affect children, so one must, from a very early age, stress on the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene to avoid contracting UTI altogether,” concludes Dr Aneja.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)