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  • Writer's pictureDr Xin Ya Lim

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

"I often get a burning sensation when I pee. Why is this happening and what do I do about it?"

It is likely that you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI is extremely common amongst young women, especially sexually active women. If you may recall the female anatomy, the urethral opening (which is where urine comes out, or sometimes known as the “pee hole”) is situated right in front of the vagina, which in turn in is located in front of the anus (the opening where faeces comes out). At times, faecal flora (or bacteria from the faeces) may travel to the vagina, followed by the urethral opening. This may occur when you wipe from back to front after you have been to the toilet.

The most common type of UTI is also known as acute cystitis. This simply refers to the inflammation of the bladder. People with an acute cystitis may not experience any discomfort; at times, the only sign of an acute cystitis is the burning sensation when you urinate. Other symptoms of an acute cystitis include urgency to urinate, painful urination, and pain in the lower abdomen area.

If you have a fever, lower back pain, or flu-like symptoms (chills, shaking, fatigue, or lethargy), you may have a complicated UTI. This involves the upper urinary tract, which includes the kidneys. Your urine test may detect the presence of white blood cells, which indicate the presence of bacteria in the urinary tract.

The risk factors include a history of UTIs as well as recent sexual activity. Other conditions such as diabetes and structural abnormalities in the urinary tract may also increase the risk of UTIs. You are also more likely to get a UTI if you are pregnant.

If you suspect that you may have a UTI, please consult a doctor. The treatment for UTI involves a course of antibiotics. For most cases of UTIs without any systemic symptoms such as fever or back pain, a urine sample may not be necessary. The antibiotics given should cover the most common strains of bacteria. Most patients should start noticing an improvement in symptoms within two days of taking the antibiotics. However, if you are taking antibiotics for a UTI, you should complete the entire course that is prescribed to you by the doctor. This will minimise any bacterial resistance to the antibiotics. Most patients should recover from UTI within a week and do not require a follow-up.

You may get another UTI again in the future. The best way to prevent UTIs is to practise good hygiene by wiping from front to back when you go to the toilet. Another way to minimise the risk is to urinate and/or shower after sexual intercourse. If you keep having recurrent UTIs, you may consult your doctor. They may suggest that you take a course of antibiotics prior to having sex.

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