Urinary tract infections, or UTIs are very common and tend to affect more women than men. They can be quite painful but will usually get better on their own in a few days, although in some cases antibiotics can help.
Find out more about urinary tract infections, what causes them and how to avoid another painful trip to the bathroom.
‘Urinary tract’ is a collective term for the parts of your body that make and get rid of urine. These include the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is when one or more of these become infected, usually by bacteria entering the urethra from the outside world. In very rare cases, UTIs can also be caused by bacteria in the bloodstream. An infection of the bladder is known as cystitis, while a urethra infection is called urethritis.
A UTI is not a sexually transmitted infection, but some women find that irritation from having sex can bring about a UTI. In men UTIs can be triggered by a narrowing of the urethra (stricture), a previous sexually transmitted infection, a bladder stone or problems with the prostate gland.
You may experience one or more of the following:
- Pain or burning sensation when urinating
- Sudden need to urinate (can’t hold it in)
- Back or stomach ache
- Cloudy or unpleasant-smelling urine
- A general feeling of being unwell
These are quite normal and will usually clear in a few days. However, if you are pregnant, diabetic, running a high temperature, or your symptoms get rapidly worse it’s a good idea to speak to your GP.
Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat UTIs, but there are several ways to help reduce the risk of picking one up in the first place
- Practice good personal hygiene – shower or bathe daily, wash your private parts and ensure you wipe from front to back after going to the toilet. Most UTIs are caused by bacteria from the anus (back passage) accidentally being passed to the urethra (pee hole).
- Don’t hold it in. Go to the toilet as soon as you feel the need to pee.
- Empty your bladder after sex. This will help to remove any bacteria around the urethra.
- Avoid constipation (when you find it difficult to poo). Include plenty of fibre in your diet and drink water throughout the day to stay regular.
- Drink cranberry juice. Cranberry juice or cranberry capsules are a natural way to boost your defences against UTIs.