Over prescription of antibiotics for infections has been a continuous issue in the healthcare community, even after the CDC declared antibiotic resistance as a serious health threat in the last few years. Researchers have called for a further intervention to stop unnecessary use of antibiotics, who are not likely to benefit from taking them. Treating these cases with antibiotics increases the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing global health concern.
When it comes to bacterial infections, UTIs (urinary tract infections) are responsible for more almost million visits to physicians’ offices per year and about five percent of all visits to primary care physicians. Statistically, about 40% of women and 12% of men will have a symptomatic urinary tract infection, that is, one that presents with symptoms like pain, burning, or urgency, during their lifetime. It is true that antibiotic resistance in is on the rise worldwide, but there has been a specific rise in resistant strains of E Coli. This is especially troublesome because E. coli bacteria causes more than 80% of UTIs.
UTI’s happen when bacteria get into the urinary tract from the urethra and travel into the bladder or further on to the kidneys. When functioning normally, the urinary tract makes and stores urine, one of the waste products of the body. Urine is made in the kidneys and travels down the ureters to the bladder, which serves as a storage container for urine. Urine from the bladder is emptied through the urethra, a tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body. When bacteria gets into the urethra, for one reason or another that is when the typical symptoms of UTI can present themselves.
Just as some people are more likely to get sick, some people are more likely to get UTIs. Being a woman is actually one of the biggest risk factors, as women have shorter urethras than men so bacteria have less distance to travel to reach the bladder. Other risk factors include genetics, menopause and sexual intercourse. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes also put people at higher risk for UTIs because of a decrease in immune function – this makes it harder for the body to fight off infections.
When you have a urinary tract infection, the lining of the bladder and urethra become irritated, which can cause pain in the abdomen and pelvis. It can cause urgency, incontinence, painful urination, cloudy urine, or even blood in the urine. For most it is these symptoms that give us a heads up to go to the doctor, check our urine (with a urinalysis and urine culture) and get treated for an infection. A short course of antibiotics, and drinking plenty of liquids has typically done the trick. Due to antibiotic resistance, the issue has become more complicated and more difficult to treat effectively. For those who have symptoms that persist, older antibiotics may be used or even stronger IV antibiotics in order to clear the infection caused by these resistant bacteria.
Until there is a better solution, limiting antibiotic use for those who actually present with UTI symptoms rather than just elevated white blood counts in their urine (which may or may not mean infection) is crucial. Because UTI’s are so common, knowing how to avoid UTIs can also be helpful. Here are some helpful tips to avoid UTI’s:
1. Keep hydrated, drinking plenty of fluids will help flush the urinary tract.
2. Do not hold in your urine, this increase the risk of UTI.
3. Wipe from front to back, to prevent bacteria from entering the urethra.
4. Urinate after sex, this can also decrease the risk of UTI because it can flush out any bacteria that may have been introducing during sex.