Diabetes is a complicated illness. And if you’re not careful enough, it can even lead to severe cases of UTI and cause other urinary-related complications.
A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria grow anywhere within the urinary tract—from the kidneys, ureters, the bladder, and the urethra.
Most people quickly dismiss UTI as a common infection that can easily be treated. After all, it affects millions of patients all over the world. Antibiotics against UTI are also widely available and affordable, and they are proven to be effective.
So at first glance, UTI seems simple and uncomplicated—but not if you’re diabetic.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body can’t effectively produce or respond to the hormone insulin, which then results to abnormal carbohydrate metabolism and high levels of glucose in the blood and urine. It’s considered a serious, lifetime condition that requires continuous care, monitoring, and maintenance.
If not managed properly, diabetes can cause life-threatening complications. And yes, it can also complicate UTIs.
For patients with diabetes, therefore, guarding against UTI is of utmost importance. Here are four facts you need to know.
Facts about UTI and Diabetes
Fact #1. You’re twice as likely to have a UTI if you’re diabetic.
For obvious reasons, this isn’t good news for patients with diabetes. A 2005 review found that around 50% of people with diabetes experience dysfunctions in their bladder. In addition, women with Type 1 diabetes are likelier than other demographics to contract a UTI.
It’s also worrisome that people with diabetes tend to experience more severe UTI, and the treatment procedure in these cases can also be more complicated than normal.
Some of the factors that can cause UTIs in people with diabetes are:
• poor metabolic control
• immune system impairments
• poor muscle function in the urinary tract
• fungi in the urinary tract
Fact #2: Diabetes is risky because it weakens your immune response.
We already know that UTI occurs when bacteria invade any part of the urinary tract. That’s why we must continuously strengthen our immune system to fight off these bacteria. A strong, fully functioning immune system can even help ward off an infection before it occurs.
But in patients with diabetes, this can get problematic.
Diabetes impairs one’s immune response. There will be fewer white blood cells to destroy bacteria or viruses entering the body. In addition, the patient may also become susceptible to other, rarer types of UTI-causing bacteria. That might make UTI more resistant to common antibiotics.
Fact #3: Nerve damage can harm the bladder.
Severe diabetes can cause nerve damage, a condition termed “diabetic neuropathy.” It usually happens during the first 10 years of diagnosing a diabetes, and the risk increases further the longer a patient has diabetes. Around 30% to 40% of patients experience neuropathy symptoms, which might include numbness or pain in the hands, feet, or legs.
So how is diabetic neuropathy linked to UTI?
Nerve damage can weaken one’s muscles or even mess up the signals between the brain and your body systems, including the urinary system. Both of these factors can lead to a dysfunctional bladder. When the bladder doesn’t empty itself completely and urine remains in the body for too long, there’s a greater chance that bacteria will start to multiply in the urinary tract.
Fact #4: Sugar in the blood and urine leads to a higher risk for UTI.
The main manifestation of diabetes is a high blood sugar level, which results from failure to metabolize and process carbohydrates and glucose. In many cases, sugar in the bloodstream may make its way into the urinary tract. Sugar in the urine creates a fertile breeding ground for bacteria.
This is why most UTI cases in diabetic patients are much worse than non-diabetics. Thus, in most instances, they are also much more difficult to manage and treat.
UTIs can be quite scary for patients with diabetes, so it’s important to look after oneself properly. Managing your diabetes through lifestyle modifications and a healthy diet can help a lot. Taking preventive measures against UTI is also recommended. For instance, you may opt to take low-dose antibiotics for UTIs regularly, with the advice of your doctor. In most cases, single-dose antibiotics for UTI, which are usually taken by women after sex, also work.
Keeping your body healthy, monitoring your blood sugar levels, and ensuring that you get enough exercise can all help fight both diabetes and UTI.
Preventive measures like basic hydration, continuous self-care, diabetes management through regular consultations with your doctor is a must.