Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that can affect the bladder, the kidneys and the tubes connected to them.
Anyone can get them, but they're particularly common in women. Some women experience them regularly (called recurrent UTIs).
UTIs can be uncomfortable and painful, but usually, pass within a few days and can be easily treated with antibiotics.
Symptoms of UTIs
Infections of the bladder (cystitis) or urethra ( the tube that carries urine out of the body) are known as lower UTIs. These can cause need-
to pee more often than usual
When peeing, - pain or discomfort
- sudden urges to pee
- feeling as though you're unable to empty your bladder fully
- pain low down in your tummy
- urine that's cloudy, foul-smelling or contains blood
- feeling unwell, tired and achy
Infections of the ureters or kidneys (tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder) are known as upper UTIs. These can cause the above symptoms and:
- a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4 ºF) or above
- pain in your sides or back
- shivering and chills
- feeling and being sick
- agitation or restlessness.
Lower UTIs are common and aren't usually a cause for major concern. Upper UTIs can be severe if left untreated, as they could damage the kidneys or spread to the bloodstream.
When to get medical advice.
It's a good idea to see your GP if you think you might have a UTI, particularly if:.
- you have symptoms of an upper UTI (see above).
- the symptoms are severe or getting worse.
- the symptoms haven't started to improve after a few days.
- you get UTIs frequently.
If you do have an infection, your GP can rule out other possible causes of your symptoms by testing a sample of your urine and can prescribe antibiotics.
Because untreated UTIs can potentially cause serious problems if they're allowed to spread, antibiotics are usually recommended.
Treatment for UTIs.
UTIs are commonly treated with a short course of antibiotics.
Most women are given a three-day course of antibiotic capsules or tablets. Men, pregnant women and people with more severe symptoms may need a slightly longer course.
Hiprex is an antibiotic which can be bought in a pharmacy without a prescription.
Your symptoms will typically pass within three to five days of starting treatment. Make sure you complete the whole course of antibiotics that you've been prescribed, even if you're feeling better.
Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol can help with any pain. Drinking plenty of fluids may also help you feel better.
Return to your GP if your symptoms don't improve, get worse or come back after treatment.
Causes of UTIs.
UTIs occur when the urinary tract becomes infected, usually by bacteria. Bacteria from the gut enter the urinary tract through the urethra.
This may occur when wiping your bottom or having sex, for example, but often it's not clear why it happens.
The following may increase your risk of getting a UTI:.
- conditions that obstruct your urinary tract, such as kidney stones.
- difficulty emptying your bladder fully.
- using a contraceptive diaphragm or condoms coated in spermicide.
- a weak immune system-- from chemotherapy or HIV.
- a urinary catheter (a tube in your bladder used to drain urine).
- an enlarged prostate gland in men.
Because their urethra is shorter than a man's and is closer to their anus (back passage), women may be more likely to get UTIs.
There are some things you can try that may stop it coming back if you get UTIs frequently. It's not clear how effective most of these measures are.
These actions include:.
- avoiding perfumed bubble talcum, bath or soap powder around your genitals-- use plain, unperfumed varieties, and have a shower rather than a bath.
- going to the toilet as soon as you need to pee and always emptying your bladder fully.
- staying well hydrated.
When you go to the toilet, - wiping your bottom from front to back.
- emptying your bladder as soon as possible after having sex.
- not using a contraceptive diaphragm or condoms with spermicidal lubricant on them-- you may wish to use another method of contraception instead.
- wearing underwear made from cotton, rather than a synthetic material such as nylon, and avoiding tight jeans and trousers.
If these measures don't work, speak to your GP. They may suggest taking a long-term course of antibiotics, or they may give you a prescription for antibiotics you can use as soon as you experience symptoms of a UTI.