A UTI, short for Urinary Tract Infection, is an infection that affects any part of the urinary system; that could be your bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra. The more common cases of a UTI affect the lower urinary tract – the bladder and the urethra. Due to having shorter urethra’s, women are at a greater risk of getting a UTI than men.
Apparently, UTIs account for over 8 million GP visits a year.
UTI’s are not a serious risk to your health, but can be extremely painful and annoying. However, if the infection moves into your kidney it can cause serious, longer-term health complications if untreated.
Symptoms of a UTI
- A persistent and strong urge to urinate, even just after urinating
- A burning sensation during urination
- Passing small amounts of urine frequently
- Urine that appears cloudy and has a strong scent
- Urine with blood – it could appear red or bright-pink due to the blood.
- In women, pelvic pain – particularly in the centre of the pelvis and around the pubic bone.
- Upper back and side (flank) pain
- Shaking and chills
- High Fever
Symptoms (Bladder –Cystitis):
- Pelvic pressure
- Lower abdomen discomfort
- Blood in urine
- Frequent and very painful urination
- Burning when urinating
Causes of a UTI
Urinary tract infections normally occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract through the urethra, and then begins to multiply inside the bladder. The urinary system is designed to keep out this type of bacteria, but sometimes the systems defence mechanisms fail and it turns into a full-blown UTI when the bacteria enters.
As discussed, most commonly, UTI’s occur in women and tend to affect the bladder a urethra.
Infection in the bladder (cystitis): This type of UTI is typically caused by E. coli, which is a bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In rare cases, other bacteria are responsible.
Cystitis can also be a result of sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse can encourage bacteria to enter the urethra and grow and multiply in the bladder.
Infection of the urethra (urethritis): This type of UTI can happen when GU bacteria spreads from the back passage into the urethra. As mentioned, because of the shorter length of the female urethra and its location on the body, sexually transmitted infections, like gonorrhoea, herpes, chlamydia, etc. can cause urethritis.
Since women are more likely to get a UTI, here are some risk factors specifically for women include:
- Female anatomy – a woman has a shorter urethra than a man, therefore shortening the distance bacteria has to travel to reach the bladder.
- Sexual activity – Women who are sexually active are more at risk of getting a UTI than women who are not sexually active. Having a new sexual partner also increases a woman’s risk of developing a UTI.
- Particular types of birth control – Birth controls such as a diaphragms or spermicidal agents may put a woman at higher risk of developing a UTI.
- Menopause – After experiencing menopause, woman have a decline in circulating oestrogen. This cause changes in the urinary tract that can make a woman more susceptible to a urinary tract infection.
Other risk factors can include:
- A weak immune system – Diseases that impair the immune system (the body’s defence against germs) can increase a person’s risk of UTIs.
- Blockages in the urinary tract – Those with kidney stones or an enlarged prostate can end up trapping urine inside the bladder and consequently increase one’s risk of getting a UTI.
- Urinary tract abnormalities – Babies born with abnormalities to do with the urinary tract that do not allow the body to expel urine properly or cause urine to back up in the urethra can increase the risk of gaining a UTI.
- A procedure on the urinary system – A urinary exam or surgery done recently on your urinary tract that involves the use of medical instruments can increase the risk of developing a UTI.
- Catheter – people who rely on a catheter to urinate may have a higher risk of getting a UTI.
Treatment of a UTI
For simple infections, antibiotics are the go-to treatment for UTIs. This will usually clear the infection up in around 2-3 days.
Antibiotics commonly recommended for UTIs include:
- Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, others)
- Fosfomycin (Monurol)
- Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Macrobid)
- Cephalexin (Keflex)
Some people suffer from frequent infections that either will not go, even with antibiotics, or an infection that keeps coming back. Treatment for this is as follows:
- Low-dose antibiotics six months but this can be extended if need be
- Self-diagnosis, kits given by your doctor so you can check for yourself before you make an appointment.
- A single dose of antibiotic after sexual intercourse if your infection is believed to be related to sexual activity.
- Vaginal estrogen therapy if you’re postmenopausal
For help in treating a chronic UTI, consider taking out a private health cash plan – you will receive much quicker treatment and results then going the the NHS.