There is one headline I will never forget. “Brazilian model, Mariana Bridi da Costa, lost her hands and feet to a severe urinary infection.” A twenty-year old model who is about to embark on a very promising career, gets sick, was advised that her limbs need to be amputated and then dies less than a month after the diagnosis.
So, you can just imagine my horror when I felt a burning sensation one time when I was peeing. A week before that, at a medical check up, I was told that I have a mild urinary tract infection but the doctor said not to worry because the infection will go away on it own. But a few days and several boxes of cranberry juice after, I stil have that burning sensation, I began to worry. And that screaming headline kept popping back into my head. What is so scary about it?
What is UTI and how is is treated?
When bacteria gets into the bladder or kidney and multiply in the urine, infection of the urinary tract may happen. Urinary tract infections are the second most common type of infection in the body. Mild infections disappear on their own, and symptoms normally clear up within a few days of treatment. Doctors usually prescribed antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections. But you may need to continue antibiotics for a week or more. Take the entire course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor to ensure that the infection is completely eradicated.
How do you know if you have UTI?
Urinary tract infections don’t always have signs and symptoms, but when they do, they can include: a strong, persistent urge to urinate; a burning sensation when urinating; passing frequent, small amounts of urine; cloudy or urine that appears, pinkish or cola colored – it’s a sign of blood in the urine; strong-smelling urine, pelvic pain for women and rectal pain for men.
Just how serious can UTI get?
If not treated in time, lower urinary tract infections can advance to the upper urinary tract (pyelonephritis) and develop complications. Symptoms of upper UTI can include chills, fever, nausea, pain under the ribs and vomiting. Extreme infection can lead to kidney, infection, damage or scarring, or sepsis (also known as septicemia) which is what happened with Mariana Bridi da Costa’s case. Her blood was so poisoned with bacteria that blood can no longer flow causing a reduced amount of oxygen delivered to her limbs.
How to minimize its risk?
Anatomically, women are more prone to UTIs. A woman’s urethra is shorter, allowing bacteria quicker access to the bladder. Also, a woman’s urethral opening is near sources of bacteria from the anus and vagina. Women have a lifetime risk of having a UTI, while it is not as common in men, but it can be serious when it occurs. Women can practice the following to avoid UTI:
- Choose sanitary pads instead of tampons, which some doctors believe make infections more likely. Change the pad each time you use the bathroom.
- Do not douche or use feminine hygiene sprays or powders. As a general rule, do not use any product containing perfumes in the genital area.
- Take showers instead of baths. Avoid bath oils.
- Keep your genital area clean. Clean your genital and anal areas before and after sexual activity.
- Urinate before and after sexual activity.
- Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom.
- Avoid tight-fitting pants
- Wear cotton-cloth underwear and pantyhose, and change both at least once a day
- Drink cranberry juice or use cranberry tablets, but NOT if you have a personal or family history of kidney stones.
- Avoid drinks that irritate the bladder like alcohol and caffeine.
- Drink plenty of fluids (2 to 4 quarts each day)