Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are incredibly common in women, with some sources estimating that one in every two women will experience a urinary tract infection in their lifetime. A UTI is an infection that occurs anywhere along the urinary tract, made up of the urethra, bladder, ureters and kidneys (in ascending order). Cystitis (bacterial infection of the bladder) is the most common presentation. While UTIs do occur in men, they’re more common in women because female urethra (the tube leading externally from the bladder) is shorter, allowing bacteria to enter the bladder more easily.
There are only two female urologists in private practice in Hong Kong and we spoke to one of them, Dr. Vera Chung 鍾楊醫生, about the symptoms and best treatments for urinary tract infections.
A UTI occurs when bacteria (and less commonly, a virus or fungus) enters the urinary tract. E. coli accounts for around 80% of community-acquired UTI.
Common risk factors for urinary tract infection include:
Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence to show that humid weather increases the risk of a urinary tract infection.
The symptoms of a lower tract UTI (cystitis) in the urethra or bladder:
If your lower tract UTI goes unchecked (they can move very quickly so this can occur easily), it may migrate upwards towards your kidneys. An upper tract UTI is very serious and can be potentially life-threatening if bacteria from your kidneys enter the bloodstream.
In addition to the above, symptoms your UTI may have progressed to the kidneys or higher are as follows:
If you suspect a UTI, it’s important to see a doctor promptly for antibiotics to prevent it from spreading to your kidneys or blood. There are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable and prevent the infection from worsening:
As mentioned above, you are likely to need antibiotics for your UTI. If you suspect a UTI, your doctor will usually give you appropriate antibiotics and may or may not test your urine to confirm the infection and determine the bacterial strain and drug sensitivity (or less commonly, virus or fungus). With proper use of antibiotics, your infection should clear up in a few days. If not, let your doctor know.
In the public sector in Hong Kong, you can book an appointment at your Cluster’s General Outpatient Clinic but the waiting time will likely be much longer than private sector.
If you are getting a lot of UTIs, it’s important to talk to your doctor about ways to prevent them. At home, you can practice the healthy prevention methods listed above. To figure out why you’re getting recurrent UTIs, your doctor will talk to you about your lifestyle habits and possibly use a number of diagnostic tools (ultrasound, CT scan or a cystoscopy) to get down to the bottom of your chronic infections.
Recently, there have been other non-antibiotic treatments developed to prevent recurrent UTIs.
Dr. Vera Chung 鍾楊醫生 is an associate of the Hong Kong Urology Clinic. She qualified in 2003 from the University of Hong Kong and was trained as a urologist in Queen Elizabeth Hospital and obtained Fellowship of Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 2011. Dr. Chung was promoted to associate consultant in Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in 2012. From 2013 to 2015 she has completed two-year European Board of Urology (EBU) Fellowship in endourology and laparoscopy at Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford. In Oxford, she also consolidated her training in the management of continence and prolapse problems in the Department of Gynecology.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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