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Preventing UTI

Dr Michael Wong, a usa fellowship-trained urologist and currently associate editor at the british journal of urology international, reveals the new and exciting trends in urology.

It is a little-known fact that urinary tract infection (UTI) is the seventh leading cause of death in Singapore1, says Dr Michael Wong, associate editor of the British Journal of Urology. It is also one of the most common infections among women, affecting about 40 per cent of them, although it is known to occur in males too.

Dr Wong, the only urologist from ASEAN elected to the Board of Directors of the prestigious US-based Society of Endourology, the highest peer recognition one can achieve, helps sheds some light on this common infection by answering some frequently asked questions associated with this illness.

What is UTI and what causes it?

Your urinary tract is the system that makes urine and carries it out of your body. This includes your bladder and kidneys, and the tubes that connect them.

When bacteria and germs get into this system through the urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside of your body, you get an infection. These bacteria and germs usually live in your large intestine and are found in your stool.

Because of the proximity of these body parts, UTIs are very common, especially in women.

How serious is the condition?

Most UTIs are bladder infections that are not serious if treated right away. However, if you do not take care of a bladder infection, it can spread to your kidneys. A kidney infection is serious and can cause sepsis, a potentially fatal full-body inflammation.

Why are women more prone to UTIs?

Women tend to get more bladder infections than men because they have a shorter urethra, making it easier for the germs to move up to the bladder. Having sex can also make it easier for germs to get into the urethra.

You are more likely to get an infection if you do not drink enough water, are postmenopausal, diabetic or pregnant. Furthermore, for women, the chances of UTI also increase if you have kidney stones, concomitant vaginal infection and a new sexual partner.

For reasons that are not well understood, some women can get bladder infections repeatedly when their immunity is down.

What are the symptoms?

You may have an infection if you are experiencing any of these:

  • Pain or a burning sensation when you urinate
  • Feeling like you have to urinate often, but when you go to the toilet, you don’t pass out much urine
  • Tender or heavy belly
  • Cloudy or bad-smelling urine
  • Pain on one side of your back under your ribs
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Call your doctor right away if you think you have an infection, especially if you also:

  • Have a fever, nausea and vomiting, or pain in one side of your back under your ribs
  • Have diabetes, kidney problems, or a weak immune system
  • Are older than 65
  • Are pregnant

How do I get diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask for a sample of your urine to test for germs that cause bladder infections. If you have infections often, you may need extra testing, like an X-ray or endoscopy, to find out why.

What are the treatment options?

Antibiotics prescribed by your doctor will usually cure a bladder infection. It may help to drink lots of water and other fluids and to urinate often, emptying your bladder each time. If you have a kidney stone, removing it is part of the treatment.

Is there anything I can do to prevent it?

Yes. Drink lots of water every day and urinate often. Do not try to hold it in. Women should urinate right after having sex. Postmenopausal women may want to ask their doctors about using vaginal oestrogen to prevent recurrent infections.

Dr Michael Wong

Medical Director & Senior Consultant Urologist
FAMS (Urology), FICS (USA), FRCS (Edinburgh),
M Med (Surgery), MBBS (S’pore)

Dr Michael Wong is a Senior Consultant Urologist who is internationally recognized for his surgical expertise and academic contribution to the field of Urology, in particular the subspecialized field of minimally invasive Endourology.

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