Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are responsible for nearly 10 million visits to doctors each year.

Women who live in places where toilets are shared and those who use pit latrines are exposed to being infected.

One in five women will have at least one UTI in her lifetime, Kidney Foundation says.

Sometimes this infection proves stubborn and refuses to go even after completing the medication recommended by doctors.

This is why nearly 20% of women who have one case of UTI will have another.

The first thing you must know is that UTI is not just an infection along the channel that urine comes out from.

As the name implies, it is an infection along the urinary tract which comprises of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.

A medical officer with Graceland Medical Centre, Dr. Chijindu Nkuche, gave an insight into its symptoms, diagnosis, misconceptions and confusing information.

The kidneys produce urine, the ureters take it down to the bladder, from there to the urethra and down to penis or the urethral opening in women.

Infection of the kidney and ureters is known as pyelonephritis. Infection of the bladder is cystitis and that of the urethra is known as urethritis.

It is usually a bacterial infection, the most common being E. Coli.

"E. Coli is a bacteria commonly found in the intestine and anal region. Other bacteria found in the urine could be klebsiella and pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others.

"Its more common in women because their urethra is short and closer to the anus where E. Coli resides. E. Coli is usually resident in the gastrointestinal tract, but when it finds itself elsewhere, for instance the urinary tract, it will cause problems there.

“It is also triggered by hormonal changes especially in women with pregnancy where the growing womb compresses the bladder against the intestinal wall and rectum,” he said.

Toilet Use

Some share public toilets and sometimes wipe their anus back to front instead of front to back. Doing that simply carries contents from the rectum to the vagina up to the urethra and bladder in women.

Also, while defecating, the contents can spill back into the genital area in women and since E.Coli is abundant in faecal matter, it can as well cause UTI.

Men are at lower risk of getting UTIs because the prostate in men has a fluid that makes it difficult for men to easily get infected.

The symptoms of UTIs depend on which part of the urinary tract is affected but they include: painful urination, too frequent urination, blood in the urine, lower abdominal pains, cloudy urine which means the urine is not very clear and a burning sensation while urinating.

UTI could be clinically diagnosis, but laboratory test can help to detect the bacteria involved.

Urine culture is one test that could be carried out to help in proper diagnosis. Urinalysis only helps in screening patients that may have it.

UTIs symptoms urinary tract infection

Dr. Nkuche said the urine culture could guide on the specific antibiotic to use but generally Amoxicillin, nitrofurantoin, and the cephalosporins are commonly used.

He strongly warned against self-medication.

Habits That Can Help Reduce UTIs Risk

A few habits can help an individual's immune system fight off the infection.

1.       Drink plenty of water.

2.       Avoid spicy foods.

3.       Avoid smoking.

Can It Be Contracted Through Sexual Intercourse?

"Sexual intercourse per say does not cause UTIs, but certain conditions can make one to have it like immunosuppression and diabetes.

"Sexual intercourse may cause minor trauma to the urethra and transfer bacteria to the bladder from the perineum," the doctor said.

One good way to avoid Urinary Tract Infection is “emptying of the bladder before and after sex”.

The Popular Lies

On misconceptions that people have about the infection, the doctor said one information that is out there that is not true is the claim by road side quacks that staphylococcus is the major cause of UTI.

If you have also heard that regular sex or not emptying your bladder could cause UTI, that is also said out of ignorance, the doctor stressed.

Dr. Nkuche added that claims that eating spicy foods, holding back urine and not drinking plenty of water could cause UTIs are not true.

Natural Remedies That Can Help

There are a few other things a health coach, Mrs Lauren Osewezina, recommends an individual can do to prevent recurrent UTIs.

1.    Drinking a glass of cranberry juice. Studies show that drinking a glass of cranberry juice each day may help prevent recurrent UTIs.

2.    Stay clean and dry and ensure that you wipe from front to back and not from back to front after using the toilet.

3.    Take probiotics. It is unfortunate that drugs with probiotics are scarce in Nigeria.  You can get probiotics it in fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, probiotic yogurt, raw cheese, sauerkraut and kombucha.

4.  Crushed raw garlic has a variety of antimicrobial activities that are effective against resistant strain of E. coli.

Some essential oils could also help in preventing the infection, she added.

This infection if not well treated can lead to infertility in men and affect conception.

It can also cause more harm to the bladder and may cause kidney damage.