As in other countries with hot and arid environments, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common in the UAE, according to local medical specialists.
In fact, about 40 per cent of the patients who visit urology clinics in the UAE come specifically to address a UTI, says Dr Ahmed Elshenoufy, Consultant Urologist, Medcare Hospital, Sharjah. “Sometimes it is just the infection, other times however, the infection is associated with problems like stones or prostatic hyperplasia.”
What is a UTI?
A UTI is any infection that affects the urinary system, which consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and the urethra. It occurs when germs get into this system responsible for carrying urine out of the body.
During the UAE’s long, hot summer it is easy for people to lose fluids and become susceptible to UTIs, although dehydration can occur year-round, one point being that many UAE residents work in the drying atmosphere of air-conditioned offices.
“Any conditions that lead to more water loss through sweating, decreasing the urine volume and increasing urine concentration might lead to increased incidence of UTIs,” says Dr Elshenoufy.
About 50 per cent of women have a UTI during their lifetime, the most afflicted being those who are married, explains Dr Sharadchandra Prasad, Specialist Urologist at Amber Clinics.
Women are four times more susceptible to infection than men due to a shorter urethra, which makes it easier for bacterial contamination to reach the bladder from pathogens in the vagina and rectum.
However, UTIs can affect everyone. “In the UAE, the prevalence of UTIs has been reported in all age groups and in both sexes,” says Dr Prasanth Sreedharan Nair, Urology Specialist, Aster Clinic, Al Muteena, Deira.
“Young, otherwise healthy, women are commonly affected with an estimated incidence of 0.5-0.7 infections per year.
“Of the women affected, 25-30 per cent will go on to develop recurrent infections not related to any functional or anatomical urinary tract abnormality.”
The leading causes of UTIs vary depending on age, incidents usually increasing as one gets older. “In young children, congenital anomalies are the most common cause, in middle age, stones are mostly causing UTIs,” says Dr Elshenoufy. “However, in elder patients, benign prostatic hyperplasia, or prostrate enlargement, is the most common reason.”
Other reasons besides not drinking enough water are holding urine in the bladder for too long, kidney stones, the use of diaphragms or condoms with spermicides during intercourse, diabetes mellitus, menopause (loss of oestrogen changes the normal bacteria in the vagina) and invasive instrumentation such as an endoscopy or urinary catheter.
Preventive measures doctors recommend include good personal bathroom hygiene, drinking 3-4 litres of fluids a day, regularly emptying the bladder, urinating after sexual intercourse and cleansing before and after, and treating urinary obstruction.
Drinking cranberry and blueberry juices prevents bacteria from sticking to the bladder skin lining, says Dr Nair. “Probiotics [live culture yoghurt] decrease the bad bacteria and increase good bacteria.” He advises women to steer clear of irritating feminine products. “Avoid using douches, deodorant sprays, scented powders and other potentially irritating feminine products.”
Although Dr Nair believes patients suffering from UTIs are generally not shy in coming forward since it’s really common in the UAE and they want immediate relief from the symptoms, Dr Prasad finds some patients do have inhibitions and therefore approach the doctor at a rather later stage of the infection. “By talking regularly and openly to your doctor you can take an active role in your care,” says Dr Prasad.
By talking regularly and openly to your doctor you can take an active role in your care.”
Symptoms to watch for
Sometimes people will not be aware that they have a UTI, but usually there are signs that indicate all is not well in that department.
A burning sensation when urinating
A strong urge to urinate
More frequent urination than usual
Pain in the lower abdomen or flank
Cloudy, bloody or bad-smelling urine
Feeling like the bladder is still full after passing urine
Fever, nausea and vomiting