By guest blogger – Dr Biodun Ogungbo, MBBS, FRCSEd, FRCS, MSc
Only a woman will know the pain of a urinary tract infection. Let us call it U.T.I for short. This is the medical term for an infection in the water works. The burning sensation in the private parts and the ache in the bladder are indescribable for many with discomfort and misery every time you go to pee. Yet, you have to go almost every few minutes knowing you can only pass a little amount of urine, painfully.
The first thing to do, of course, is to see your doctor. This avoids huge problems later and helps you keep a small infection from becoming potentially life threatening. Let me reiterate this. Urinary tract infection can become a kidney infection and threaten your life, if not well managed.
So, see a doctor as soon as possible and give them a sample of urine. We prefer the first and early morning sample of urine in a clean and sterile bottle. The laboratory can confirm infection and also help determine the most effective antibiotic to use.
Warning: Please do not go to a local chemist and ask for antibiotics. Do not buy it off the Mallam on the bus to Dala. Self medication is truly bad for you and also pretty bad for us all, since the germs can become resistant to the antibiotics, and then we are all in trouble.
The absolute best thing is to avoid infection through proper hygiene and body care. Clean yourself the proper way after using the toilet. Wipe from the front to the back and do not douche. Cleaning the private parts after toileting is important. Clean with water only and dry with clean tissue or a clean towel. Daily change into clean underwear is to be recommended. So is sleeping in loose underwear.
Be sure it is not a sexually transmitted disease. Watch out for vaginal discharge and foul odours. See your doctor if you are concerned. Definitely, see a doctor if you notice blood in your urine.
But, just in case you cannot get to a doctor as quickly as you like, then you need to know a few things you can do at home. A few ideas and homemade remedies are described here. I got some of these off the internet and distilled it just for you.
Drink plenty of water. It is one of the most important things you can do when you have a UTI. It can help flush out bacteria, and (almost) more importantly, it gives you something to actually push out when you pee! Water and other drinks recommended actually help in pushing the bacteria out of your system. It does mean you have to go and pee as often as the sensation comes but that is not a bad thing.
It may sound obvious, but when you need to pee, please do it! If you hold it in, you increase the chance that bacteria will develop and multiply and prolong the infection. Getting rid of the germs through peeing is good for you.
A warm water bottle can be pretty comforting and take your mind off the pain. Sometimes, it’s not just peeing that hurts. Some people find that the irritation can cause a constant, nagging cramping discomfort. When this happens, applying heat over your bladder can bring some serious relief. The gentle warmth will relax your muscles, melting away the pain caused by spasms or inflammation. Leave the bottle on for as long as needed and repeat as necessary. Take care not to burn yourself.
Things to avoid
In general you should avoid the following: Chocolate, citrus, soft drinks, and caffeine. These are 4 things that you should avoid if you find yourself getting UTI’s frequently. All of them can irritate the lining of the bladder, and potentially make it easier for bacteria to adhere. Citrus will also increase the acidity of your urine, which will make it even more painful to pee.
Cranberry juice has long been advocated as an effective home treatment for UTI. There is very little good evidence it helps and it may even be harmful. I will not recommend this and perhaps you should avoid it.
Similarly, avoid taking advice from people who know very little about this and take the comments of well wishers with a pinch of salt. As you know, Nigerians have up 10 doctors each: the cleaner, the gardener, the meat seller, friends and family are all occasionally ‘doctors’, dishing out poor and unsolicited advice.
Finally, it’s important to not confuse a UTI with sexually transmitted infection. As discussed above, any discharge and foul smell from the nether regions should prompt a visit to the sexual health clinic for information, advice and treatment.
Dr Biodun Ogungbo, Consultant Neurosurgeon in Abuja is a UK General Medical Council Registered Specialist in Neurosurgery and Nigerian Medical and Dental Council registered Surgeon. He has extensive surgical repertoire in elective and emergency surgery. He supports medical education and is active in health advocacy. He is interested in stroke and spine problems and has written extensively about these conditions.