A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system. Symptoms include pain or burning while urinating, frequent or sudden pressure to urinate, passing urine that is cloudy, bloody or smelly, pain in the back or lower abdomen and fever or chills. UTIs are extremely common, affecting at least half of women at some stage in their lives.
What causes a UTI?
UTIs are typically caused by an E. coli infection, whereby bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to spread in the bladder.
Most infections involve the lower urinary tract (the bladder and the urethra) and be quite irritating and painful. However, serious health problems such as sepsis can result if a UTI spreads to the kidneys.
UTIs are more frequent among young, sexually active women and post-menopausal women. Women and girls are especially affected because they have shorter urethras than men, and thus bacteria can reach the bladder more easily. Bacteria can also be transmitted from person to person during sex.
UTIs don’t always cause symptoms, but when they do they may include:
- A constant urge to urinate.
- A burning sensation when urinating.
- Urinating often and in small amounts.
- Cloudy or strong-smelling urine.
- Blood in the urine (urine appears red, bright pink or cola-coloured).
- Pelvic pain, especially in the centre of the pelvis and around the pubic bone.
Types of UTIs
Depending on its location on the urinary tract, UTIs can be classified as follows:
- Bladder: Also called cystitis or bladder infection.
- Kidneys: Also known as pyelonephritis, it can affect one kidney or both.
- Ureters: These are the tubes that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder.
- Urethra: This is the tube that expels urine from the bladder.
During a UTI, symptoms may be eased by drinking plenty of water and cranberry juice, applying heat to the pubic area, taking paracetamol, and refraining from having sex.
Nevertheless, the best course of action is to see a doctor. As most UTIs are caused by bacteria, the most likely treatment will involve antibiotics. However, women who suffer from recurring UTIs may need to be seen by a specialist. Hospital Ochoa’s gynaecologists will determine the best treatment for you.
Some people find the following tips helpful:
- Keep the genital area clean and dry, and wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet.
- Drink plenty of fluids so that you urinate frequently and flush bacteria before an infection can begin.
- Make sure the bladder is completely empty after urinating.
- Urinate soon after sex and wash the genital area.
- Do not wear tight synthetic underwear.
- Change you birth control method – diaphragms and spermicidal lube may contribute to bacterial growth.