UTIs are a common problem among women. Here’s what you need to know about the condition, and how to reduce your risk of getting it. By Dawn Chen
Urinary tract infections. Photo: 123Rf.com/Rui Santos
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common than you think, with statistics showing that one in two women will experience at least one UTI in her lifetime. It is also one of the most common urological conditions that plague women in Singapore. Dr Ng Chee Kwan, urologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, sheds light on the quick facts you must know about urinary tract infections.
UTIs are caused by bacteria.
UTIs usually occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract and reaches the bladder. This is also why there’s a common recommendation to “wipe from front to back” – you don’t want to transfer bacteria from the anus to the urethra.
UTIs are more common in women than men.
Simply put, women get UTIs more easily because we have shorter urethras than men. This means that bacteria travels through a much shorter distance to reach the bladder.
Some women are more susceptible to UTIs than others.
While anyone can get a UTI, the condition tends to be more common among younger, sexually active women (as bacteria may enter the bladder during intercourse) and menopausal women. In menopausal women, the lack of oestrogen leads to skin changes around the urethra, and can increase the risk of infection.
Pee when you feel like it.
Failure to do so may increase your chances of getting UTI. Holding your pee for too long means the accumulation of urine in the bladder can increase the risk of getting a urinary tract infection. On this note, it’s also a good idea to pee after sexual intercourse.
One basic rule to improve your urological health is to drink enough water. “The usual recommendation is to drink eight glasses of water a day, but this is not a hard and fast rule,” says Dr Ng. Instead, he recommends letting your body be your guide, and to drink enough water to quench your thirst.
Cranberries are good for you.
Mum was right. Munching on these antioxidant-rich fruits do offer some benefits when it comes to preventing UTIs. “Cranberry may reduce the risk of UTI as it contains natural compounds that prevent harmful bacteria from attaching themselves to the lining of the urinary tract,” says Dr Ng. He adds that taking cranberries in moderation is quite safe, but patients with recurrent urinary stones should avoid taking too much as they contain oxalate which can lead to stone formation. If in doubt, consult a doctor before eating cranberries regularly.