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What is a UTI?

Here’s what you need to know about UTIs and what to do if you think you’ve got one.

Find yourself needing to visit the loo more often than normal and feeling like something’s burning down there when you pee? You might have a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs are very common, especially in women, babies and the elderly. Around 1 in 2 women will get a UTI in their lifetime, so if you think you might be displaying the symptoms, don’t stress – you’re not alone!

What is a UTI?

A UTI is an infection that occurs anywhere in the urinary tract. The urinary tract is what makes and stores urine and removes it from the body. The different parts of the urinary tract include:

  • Kidneys – collect waste from blood to make urine
  • Ureters – carry the urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • Bladder – stores urine
  • Urethra – a short tube that carries urine from the bladder out of your body when you pass urine
What are the symptoms?
  • Needing to urinate more regularly and more urgently, even if only a few drops come out
  • A burning pain when you pee (feeling like your peeing broken glass)
  • Feeling like your bladder is still full even after you’ve urinated
  • Pain above the pubic bone
  • Blood in the urine (see your doctor if this happens)
How are UTIs caused?

UTIs are caused when bacteria gets into your urinary tract. Bacteria can enter the urinary system in many ways, including:

  • Wiping from back to front after bowel movement. This can cause germs to enter into your urethra which has its opening at the front of the vagina.
  • Having sex. During sexual intercourse germs in the vagina can be pushed into the urethra.
  • Waiting too long to pass urine. When urine remains in the bladder for a long amount of time, more germs are made creating greater risk of infection.
  • Using a diaphragm contraceptive device or spermicides (creams that kills sperm).
  • Diabetes. Changes in the immune system can make people with diabetes more at risk of contracting an infection.
  • Having a urinary catheter in place.
How can I prevent UTIs from happening in the first place? How can I stop them happening again?

Some women find these things useful in preventing the development of UTI’s:

  • Drinking plenty of water (this helps flush the urinary system )
  • Going to the toilet when you need to – don’t hold off because you’re waiting for that next ad break on your favourite show!
  • Practicing good hygiene – try showering instead of taking a bath
  • Making sure you wipe from front to back after you go to the toilet
  • After sex, making sure to empty your bladder
I think I’ve got a UTI… What do I do?
  • See your GP. Your doctor will test your urine to see whether you’ve got an infection and if you need antibiotics. UTIs usually respond quickly to antibiotics and many women feel better in a few days after taking the medication.
  •  It’s important to seek treatment if you think you might have a UTI. Early treatment of urinary infection can help stop the infection from spreading to the kidneys and from becoming more serious. UTI’s can be pretty uncomfortable, so if you think you might have one, don’t put up with the pain!
  • Drink cranberry juice- this can help to flush out the bacteria.
  • Drink a urinary alkaliniser (like Ural) to make your wee less acidic, these are available at your chemist)

You might also feel like taking the day off, or just spending some time at home while the symptoms wear off.