Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common in women - some experts predict that around 50 to 60% of women will develop a UTI at least once in their lifetime.
Some UTIs can lead to serious complications so it is important to be reviewed by a doctor if you think you have a UTI. Find out if you have a UTI and get the right treatment today.
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, can affect any part of your urinary system. This includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. A UTI is usually caused by bacteria but can also be caused by fungi and viruses. Women are more at risk of developing a UTI because they have a shorter urethra than men. While UTIs can be painful and very uncomfortable, they often pass after a few days. However, some can lead to serious complications, which is why it’s important to seek professional medical help should you suspect you have a UTI.
Antibiotics are often the best way to treat UTIs. Natural remedies can help ease the pain - try over-the-counter painkillers or a warm compress over your lower abdominal area. Good hydration and not holding in your pee can also help prevent the development of UTIs.
A UTI can have different symptoms depending on where the infection is within the urinary tract - upper or lower. We can help with:
What are the symptoms of a UTI? Can UTI symptoms come and go?
UTIs can be broken down into two types - a lower urinary tract infection and an upper urinary tract infection. 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 (urethritis). An upper urinary tract infection is an infection of the kidney (pyelonephritis) or ureter, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. A lower urinary tract infection can travel up the urinary tract to become an upper urinary tract infection.
Of the two, an upper urinary tract infection is most likely to become more serious if left untreated. In some cases, the infection can damage the kidneys permanently and can spread to the bloodstream, both of which can be dangerous. This is the reason why it is important to get a swift diagnosis and treatment from a doctor. Thankfully, upper urinary tract infections are much less common.
Upper urinary tract infection symptoms can be more difficult to detect because they may not be seen as related to the urinary tract. Symptoms can include:
However, it is not always possible to be certain of the diagnosis and medical tests may be needed to make sure the problem is with the kidneys and not other organs such as the gall bladder or bowel.
A doctor will be able to assess your symptoms and provide an accurate diagnosis by taking a urine specimen. If you suspect you may have a UTI, it’s best to make an appointment to see a doctor immediately. If you are unable to see your NHS GP, you can get convenient and quick access to a Medicspot doctor instead. A urine sample may be required to help the doctor diagnose a UTI, but in many cases, this is not needed – especially if you are female.
If you decide not to seek medical advice immediately, you should certainly do so if your condition worsens or does not improve after a few days. Some upper urinary tract infections require hospital admission. It’s important to seek an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible if you have symptoms consistent with an upper urinary tract infection.
UTIs can cause multiple different symptoms, including headaches. Headaches can also be a sign of dehydration or pyelonephritis, where the infection has spread to the kidneys.
The most common cause of a UTI is the transfer of the bacteria, E.coli, from the intestine to the urethra and then up into the urinary tract.
There are several ways bacteria is spread from the genitals and anus to the urinary tract opening and it is important to take preventative measures to try to prevent this. We can help with:
How are UTIs caused? What is the most common cause of a UTI?
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is usually caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract through the urethra. The bacteria then begin to multiply which leads to an infection. The urinary system has defence mechanisms in place to prevent this from happening, although these can sometimes fail which results in a UTI.
Urethritis is an infection of the urethra. This UTI can be caused by bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract but can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea, herpes and chlamydia. Less commonly ureaplasma and mycoplasma may also be the cause.
Cystitis is a bladder infection. This is a type of UTI that is typically caused by E Coli (Escherichia coli) and sometimes other bacteria. E Coli is a bacteria that lives in healthy bowels. Women are more susceptible to infection as they have a shorter urethra, so bacteria don’t have to travel as far to reach the bladder.
The bacteria, E coli is found in faeces. When this enters the urinary tract, women can get a UTI. The entrance to the urinary tract in women is found close to the anus, which makes it easier for women to contract UTIs. Women also have a shorter urethra than men, which means bacteria can reach the bladder and kidneys easier, leading to a UTI. The risk of this happening may be reduced by wiping “front to back” after you’ve been to the toilet.
Cystitis can develop in women following sexual activity. The friction to the opening of the urethra in women during sex can enable the transfer of bacteria, which can lead to cystitis. The risk of this happening can be reduced by urinating as soon as possible after sex.
A UTI is not considered contagious and it is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection. However, sexual activity can increase your risk of developing a UTI. During sexual intercourse, the penis may spread bacteria to the opening of the urinary tract.
Condom use during sexual activity can decrease the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Non-lubricated latex condoms may, rarely, cause a UTI because they increase friction and irritation to the vagina during sexual intercourse.
UTIs are more common in women than men, but men still do develop them sometimes. In men, they can be a sign of an enlarged prostate gland.
Symptoms of UTIs in men include a stinging sensation during urination and having to use the toilet often. We have some helpful information on symptoms and causes of UTIs in men. We can help with:
What can cause UTIs in males? Can dehydration cause UTIs in males?
Cystitis in men is much less common than in women, probably since the length of the urethra is much greater and thus bugs find it much more difficult to reach the bladder from the end of the penis. For that reason, we recommend investigating men with a urinary infection to make sure that there is no other problem – benign prostate problems and urinary stones are common causes. Very rarely, men can contract a UTI through anal intercourse. Older men are more likely to experience enlargement of their prostate gland, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, which may obstruct the flow of urine and make infections more common.
The symptoms of a bladder infection in men include:
If you have a more serious infection, particularly one that has gone to the kidney, you may also experience:
To diagnose a UTI, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, history of UTIs and lifestyle. The doctor will also examine you and may ask for a urine sample. This sample will be tested for bacteria. Depending on the type of bacteria present, your doctor will be able to prescribe you the right antibiotics to treat your infection. However, a urine sample isn’t always essential, and your doctor may be able to diagnose a UTI based on your symptoms alone. If your doctor feels you may have an enlarged prostate gland, they may also carry out a rectal exam. Prostate blood tests should not be undertaken if there has been a recent infection, as the result may be artificially high.
There are certain factors that make men more susceptible to UTIs. These include:
To treat a UTI, you will need to see your doctor for a diagnosis. Following the diagnosis, your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics, normally for 5 days. All men with a proven urinary infection should have at least an ultrasound of the kidneys and bladder to ensure there are no underlying problems.
You should keep hydrated by drinking lots of water and fluids. Drinking water will help flush out bacteria from your urinary tract when you urinate. You should start to feel better within 2 days. If you aren’t improving in 2 days, then you will need to return to your doctor with a urine sample, so that this can be sent to microbiology to investigate if another antibiotic is required.
If you have had a urinary infection then make sure you stay well hydrated to avoid future attacks. All men with urinary symptoms should speak to their doctor to make sure there are no prostate or other problems which might lead to infection.
A doctor can make a diagnosis of a UTI based on your symptoms, but sometimes they will need a urine sample. They may diagnose a UTI without a test of your urine sample to ensure that they don’t delay treatment, but it is recommended that this test is undertaken.
Your doctor may be able to prescribe you antibiotics to treat the UTI and can advise you to help prevent it from occurring again. We can help with:
How to get rid of UTIs? How to treat a UTI naturally?
The most effective way to treat a UTI is for a doctor to prescribe antibiotics to fight the bacterial infection.
Drinking plenty of water will reduce your risk of developing a UTI, and will assist in its treatment. Water consumption helps the flow of urine and prevents bacteria build up in your bladder and urethra. In general, your urine should not be darker than (a sauvignon blanc) wine.
You should urinate when you feel the need to. Delaying going to the toilet results in the build-up, and multiplication of, bacteria in your urinary tract.
There is no evidence that cranberry juice, tablets, or capsules help treat UTIs and weak evidence that they prevent UTIs in some older people.
You can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to help deal with the pain.
Hot water bottle
A hot water bottle can be placed on the lower tummy, back or between the thighs to help relieve pain. Never place a hot water bottle directly onto your skin as this can cause burns.
Some people can be allergic to certain antibiotics. If you are experiencing any severe side-effects from taking antibiotics, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Antibiotics are usually the recommended treatment for people with a UTI. For those experiencing three or more UTIs a year, speak with a GP who will be able to formulate a plan to reduce the chances of reinfection through low doses of antibiotics over a longer period of time.
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. This may also indicate the infection has spread further than initially thought, or it could have led to complications elsewhere, such as the kidneys.
UTIs can clear up without any treatment, although in most cases this does not happen. That is why antibiotics are usually recommended to those with a UTI. Symptoms of a UTI usually improve within 2 days with antibiotics.
Always complete the full course of antibiotics your doctor prescribes, even if you feel better.
In many cases, antibiotics are the preferred method of getting rid of a UTI. However, you can try to help an infection to pass by drinking plenty of clear fluids. Some ways to treat the symptoms of UTIs at home include:
It is a widely held belief that cranberry juice will help with UTIs. It was thought that substances in cranberry juice could prevent bacteria from sticking to the wall of the urinary tract. However, research shows that cranberry products do not cure UTIs, and there is only weak evidence to support that they decrease the risk of developing UTIs in young patients.
It is possible to take steps to reduce your chances of getting a UTI. The following are recommended by Medicspot doctors:
A lower urinary tract infection occurs in the bladder and urethra and may sometimes go away on its own. This may be the case when very healthy people get mild cystitis. However, a UTI will most commonly need antibiotics. If a UTI is left untreated, this can lead to very serious complications such as kidney damage and sepsis. Some people may have recurrent UTIs. If you feel you’re getting lots of UTIs, you should see a GP.
If you suspect you have a UTI, the first thing to do is to schedule an appointment with a doctor to diagnose and treat the infection.
Your doctor will be able to give you the appropriate antibiotics. We have some helpful information on the antibiotics most commonly prescribed for UTIs. We can help with:
Do I need antibiotics for a UTI? What is the best antibiotic for a UTI?
To choose the right antibiotic, your doctor will apply local guidelines that consider your sex, health and the features of your infection. These guidelines consider the benefits and risk of each antibiotic including their side effects and the risk of resistance.
Your UTI symptoms should start to improve within 48 hours. If you haven’t seen an improvement, you will need to return to your doctor with a urine sample. An assessment will then be made to see if you need to change to a different antibiotic. Some antibiotics used for UTIs include:
Cystitis is a mild UTI. Antibiotics most commonly prescribed to treat cystitis include:
Oral antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat urethritis. The most common antibiotics include:
Where oral antibiotics are sufficient for a kidney infection, the most common antibiotics prescribed include:
There is a range of factors that can increase your risk of UTIs. If you are getting UTIs frequently, you should speak to your doctor to consider further investigations, and possibly medication. We can help with:
What are the risk factors for a UTI? Do condoms increase the risk of UTIs?
Women and older adults are more at risk of contracting UTIs for a number of reasons. A woman’s urethra is closer to the anus than a man’s. The vagina is also close to the urethra. This allows bacteria such as E. coli to pass from the anus or vagina to the urethra. As we age our clearance of urine is less efficient, and pooling of urine in older adults creates an environment prone to UTIs.
You are more likely to develop a UTI when you are sexually active. During sex, bacteria can travel from the anus or groin to the opening of the urethra. This enables bacteria that live in our faeces to enter the urethra and affect the urinary tract system, resulting in an infection.
Women who use a diaphragm are at a higher risk of developing a UTI. A diaphragm is a form of birth control used with spermicide to prevent pregnancy. It is made of silicone, has a saucer-like shape and is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. The location of this diaphragm can prevent the bladder from completely emptying itself, allowing urine and bacteria to accumulate. This can lead to a UTI.
You risk developing a UTI if you don't drink enough water. Clearing bacteria from the urinary tract is essential for preventing UTIs and partly dependent on urine flow. If you are dehydrated your kidneys will produce less urine, so the urine in your bladder will stay there for longer, providing the opportunity for bacteria to multiply.
Abnormal bladder and bowel function habits can increase your risk of contracting UTIs. Abnormal urinary behaviours can occur in children, for example, if they develop a habit of holding in urine for extended periods of time and have difficulty relaxing the muscles that help with urination. Abnormal urinary patterns are also often linked with bowel issues such as constipation. Additionally, when you have watery diarrhoea, some of the diarrhoea can splash up and onto the entrance of the urethra, resulting in infection entering the urinary tract.
Other factors that increase the risk of developing a UTI include:
There are many factors that can cause recurrent UTIs. It may be because of one of the risk factors mentioned above. Some other factors which may require investigations include:
UTIs occur not only in adults but in children as well. We have some useful advice and tips that can help you spot UTIs in children. We can help with:
What are the symptoms of a UTI in children? Why does my child have a UTI?
UTIs are relatively common in young children and infants. Babies experiencing UTIs can be fussy, vomit or have a fever. Older children can express that they may feel pain when they pee, experience lower abdominal pain and may need to pee very frequently. Some symptoms to look out for in children include:
UTIs in kids occur when bacteria from the bowel gets into their urinary tract and starts to multiply. This can be caused by bacteria transferring from the skin around the rectum to the urinary tract opening. Children that experience abnormal urinary patterns can also be at a higher risk of developing a UTI.
UTIs in children may be the first sign of diabetes; so your doctor will check for glucose in the urine if your child has a UTI.
UTIs are treated in children using antibiotics. If you notice UTI symptoms in your child, you should take them to see a doctor immediately. Your doctor will be able to take a sample of urine to look for signs of infection, identify the most effective antibiotic, and check for glucose in the urine. After treatment with antibiotics, your doctor may wish to carry out another test to make sure the infection has cleared.
If your child is vomiting, cannot keep down fluids or medicine, or you have any concerns, they will need to be reviewed in a hospital, so you will need to take them to the emergency department immediately.
If your child is experiencing symptoms such as fever, vomiting and pain, they should stay at home until antibiotic treatment has started and these symptoms fade. They will need to be monitored carefully during this period, and medical attention sought if they get any worse.
UTIs can be recurrent in children if they are at a higher risk of being exposed to bacteria that cause UTIs. Children may be at a higher risk of contracting UTIs if they:
There are different ways you can help protect your child from UTIs. These include:
When you are pregnant, your doctor may carry out regular tests to check if you have a UTI. This is because pregnant women have a higher risk of developing a UTI.
You don’t need to worry. We have some useful information on how to reduce the risk of UTIs when pregnant and what you can do if you have one. We can help with:
Can having a UTI while pregnant hurt the baby? Is a UTI dangerous during pregnancy?
A UTI will not prevent pregnancy. If you have contracted a UTI and are trying for a child, your fertility will not be affected but you should make sure to treat the infection with antibiotics as soon as possible. Some antibiotics commonly used for UTIs may reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.
Some symptoms of UTIs during pregnancy include:
If a UTI is left untreated during pregnancy, it can be dangerous for both mother and unborn child. An untreated UTI can cause the development of a kidney infection, also known as pyelonephritis. Pyelonephritis is a serious condition - it can cause the mother to have anaemia, sepsis, bacteria in the blood and premature labour. For the baby, some infections may cause an early birth as well as a low birth weight.
A UTI during pregnancy can be treated safely with a course of antibiotics. You should see a doctor if you are experiencing any UTI symptoms. Your doctor will assess you and consider, if appropriate, the safest antibiotic likely to help you. The antibiotics, in most cases, are unlikely to affect your baby. If you have had a UTI while pregnant it is advised to keep an eye on the urine regularly for the rest of the pregnancy.
You can take several steps to lower your risk, such as:
UTIs are common during early pregnancy and pregnant women, in general, are at a higher risk of contracting UTIs.
UTIs are normally treated without any problems, but rarely they can develop into something more serious. We can help with:
What happens if a UTI goes untreated? Can a UTI make you tired and weak?
UTIs can be more than uncomfortable. UTIs can pose serious health risks and these are greater in pregnant women, and the baby can also be affected. If UTIs are not diagnosed and treated promptly, bacteria have the opportunity to multiply and spread to different areas of the urinary tract and the rest of the body. It is important to see your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any symptoms of UTIs.
Although it is rare for a lower urinary tract infection to cause complications, if a UTI is left untreated, this can lead to several complications. Some complications include:
One of the symptoms of a UTI is abdominal pain. This pain is most commonly felt in the lower abdominal area, underneath the belly button.
UTIs can sometimes cause testicular pain. Epididymitis is a condition in men that causes pain in one or both testicles. The epididymis is the tube that carries sperm to the testicles. When this is inflamed or infected, it is called epididymitis. Although epididymitis is usually a result of STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia, it can also be caused by UTIs, particularly in older men.
Elderly people of either sex are more susceptible to UTIs as their immune system may be weakened, and the clearing of the bladder from their urinary tract may be delayed, and older women may have weakening of genital tissue after the menopause. They may be less able to perform self-care, in activities such as toileting. This allows the growth of bacteria and can lead to infections. The first symptoms of UTIs in older adults are the same as for younger patients. However, confusion (especially in those with dementia) and new incontinence are more common.
You may have heard some UTI myths. Or you may just have some further questions. Speak to one of our doctors in minutes to get clarification and more information. We can help with:
Can I have sex when I have a UTI? How can I get tested for a UTI?
Most people with a UTI don’t feel like having sex. A UTI does not completely prevent you from having sexual intercourse, however, we advise that you abstain from sexual activity until your symptoms have completely resolved. Having sex with a UTI can cause more irritation to your urinary tract tissues which can increase your risk of complications. Make sure you have completed your course of antibiotics, and your symptoms have resolved before you engage in sexual activity. Remember that when one partner has an STI, the partner needs checking also.
Back pain is not one of the more common symptoms of a UTI. However, it is found in some people, along with other, more common symptoms such as lower abdominal pain, a burning sensation when you pee and cloudy or blood-stained urine. As the pain from the kidneys is felt in the lower back, you must tell your doctor if you have back pain so they can assess the possibility of a problem with your kidneys.
You can go to work with a UTI, however, make sure you have seen a doctor for a review, even if that means you need to take time off work. Pain from UTIs is not normally severe when not passing urine, so simple over the counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol should ease the pain. If you have severe pain, you should speak to your doctor so that they can assess you for risks of a worsening infection.
A UTI and bladder infection are not the same things. A bladder infection is a type of UTI. Bladder infections occur when bacteria, contracted through the urethra, spreads to the bladder itself. A UTI, on the other hand, is an infection of any part of the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys, ureters or urethra.
Yes - you can buy over-the-counter UTI tests at your local pharmacy or online. These kits work in a similar way to a pregnancy test - they indicate whether or not there is evidence of a potential UTI in your urine. No matter what your home urine test reveals, you should always see a doctor so that they can check your symptoms and interpret the result.
At Medicspot we are on a mission to make healthcare more accessible and convenient. We have hundreds of private clinics across the UK - simply find your nearest one and see a doctor in minutes.
Our private doctors can help diagnose your UTI and provide expert treatment and advice. Find out what treatment is right for you and how you can reduce your risk of developing complications. We can help with:
Where is your nearest clinic? How can Medicspot help?
The Medicspot diagnostic station allows doctors to remotely listen to your chest, measure your oxygen levels, and take your temperature to effectively diagnose your health condition.