What's a UTI?

It’s estimated half of all women in the UK will have a UTI at least once in their life, and 1 in 2,000 healthy men will develop one each year. Therefore we felt it was necessary to help you understand what are UTIs, how can you detect it and what can you do about it if you have been diagnosed.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can carry a range of symptoms depending on where the infection is based within the urinary tract. UTIs can be particularly painful and, due to the potential for some to turn serious, in most cases you will be required to receive diagnosis and treatment by a qualified doctor.

What are Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)?

In adults, UTIs are most common in women with some suffering from frequent urinary tract infections. While they are painful and can be incredibly uncomfortable, they can also pass in just a few days.  Others are more serious and can lead to further complications, which is why it’s important to seek professional medical help should you suspect you have a UTI.

In children, UTIs are also fairly common but are very rarely serious. That said, swift diagnosis and treatment should be sought if you suspect your child has a urinary tract infection.

Essentially, UTIs can be broken down in to two types.  A lower UTI and an upper UTI.  A lower urinary tract infection is an infection of the bladder (cystitis) or the tube that carries urine out of the body, known as the urethra. An upper urinary tract infection is an infection of the kidneys or the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

Of the two, an upper UTI is most likely to become more serious if left untreated. Serious cases can damage the kidneys permanently or the infection can spread to the bloodstream, both of which can be a huge problem. This the reasons why swift diagnosis and treatment from a doctor is of paramount importance.  Thankfully, upper UTI’s are much less common.

A UTI is generally caused when bacteria infect your urinary tract. The most common way that this happens is when bacteria from the gut enters the urinary tract via the urethra. This can occur for many reasons, including by wiping your bottom or having sex, but often there is no clear way of knowing how the bacteria that caused the urinary tract infection came to be in the urinary tract.

Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

The symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection will generally vary depending on which type of UTI it is.  Symptoms of each type are as follows:

Lower Urinary Tract Infection

- Pain low down in your stomach area
- Needing to urinate more often than usual
- A sudden urge to urinate
- Discoloured, cloudy and possible bloody urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Discomfort or even pain when urinating
- A general feeling of being unwell
- Fatigue
- Aches
- Still feeling the need to urinate after doing so

Upper Urinary Tract Infection

Symptoms of the more serious upper urinary tract infection are often less easy for the sufferer to pinpoint as being related to the urinary tract.  They include:

- Having a high temperature, or fever, of 38C (100.4ºF) or higher
- Having pain in your side or back
- Shivering and chills
- Feeling nauseous
- Being sick
- Finding yourself confused
- Restlessness
- Agitation

Diagnosis of a Urinary Tract Infection

If you suspect you may have a urinary tract infection, it’s best to make an appointment to see a doctor immediately.  If you are unable to see your own GP then MedicSpot can help give you convenient and quick access a GP who can confirm you have a UTI and offer you the appropriate treatment. A sample of urine may be needed to help the doctor diagnose a UTI, but in most cases this is not needed – especially if you are female.

If you decide not to seek medical advice immediately, then you should certainly do so if your condition worsens or does not improve after a few days.  It’s important that if your symptoms are consistent with an upper urinary tract infection that you seek an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible as many times upper UTI’s need careful monitoring in a hospital.

Treatment of a Urinary Tract Infection

AS UTI’s are caused by bacteria, the common treatment for a Urinary Tract Infection is a short course of antibiotics. Males, pregnant women and the elderly may need a longer course of antibiotics which your doctor can advise you about.  Antibiotics such can be cleared up quickly to minimise the risk of infection spreading.

Ordinarily, the symptoms of a urinary tract infection will pass within a matter of days from starting treatment with antibiotics. This can be as few as 3-5 days, but even if you are feeling better it is important that you complete the full course of medication prescribed to you to ensure that the infection is fully cleared up and the risk of antibiotic resistance is minimised.

While antibiotics are the only medication that will treat the bacterial infection, there are other things that you can do to help relieve the symptoms.  Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can help ease the potential pain and fever caused by the UTI and while keeping yourself hydrated by drinking a lot of water will also help in flushing the infection out.

If your symptoms do not clear up within a week of starting a course of medication from your doctor, it may be that the type of bacterial infection you have does not respond to the antibiotics. The infection may have spread further than initially thought, or it could have led to complications elsewhere such as in the kidneys.

There is currently very little evidence that suggests cranberry juice/capsules or the regular taking of probiotics can help prevent UTIs. If you suffer from urine infections regularly, speak to your GP about other potential treatments of ways in which you may be able to prevent them from occurring.