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Urinary Tract Infections

What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A urinary tract infection (UTI), as the name suggests, is an infection of the urinary tract, which is made up of the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder and the urethra (the tube that passes from the bladder to the vulva or penis and allows urine to leave the body).

There are two types of UTIs. The first is a lower UTI, in the lower part of the urinary tract. This could be in the bladder, known as cystitis, or in the urethra, known as urethritis. The second type is an upper UTI, which includes the kidneys and ureters, the tubes running from the kidneys to the bladder. This potentially is the more dangerous of the two, as it can lead to kidney damage.

Can I get Treatment for a Urinary Tract Infection?

If you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection then it is better to see your GP straight away if you have not had these symptoms before. In certain cases, we can provide treatment in advance of need where the patient has a history of UTIs and they would recognize the symptoms were they to recur. If you suffer from cystitis then you can click on the button below for a free consultation for antibiotic medication in advance of need.

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If you have symptoms of urethritis that may be caused by a sexually transmitted infection then please follow this link to the relevant page of this website - STI Information - where further relevant advice is available.

What causes a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A urinary tract infection is usually caused by the presence of bacteria. UTIs are very common in women and it is estimated that before the age of 24, 1 in 3 women will experience a UTI and half of all women will experience a UTI at least once in their lifetime.

Men are less likely to develop a UTI, although it is thought that 1 in every 2000 healthy men will experience one.

Urinary Tract Infections can be caused by the transfer of bacteria from the anus to the urethra. This is more likely to happen in women as the distance between the anus and the urethra is very short and the urethra itself is shorter in women. Good toilet hygiene can prevent cross transfer of bacteria and the wiping of the toilet paper away from the urethra to the anus (rather than the other way round) can help to prevent UTIs. Sexual activity can also increase the chances of contracting a UTI in women as sexual intercourse can irritate the urethra, making it easier for bacteria to travel up the urethra to the bladder.

People who are not able to completely empty their bladders are also more susceptible to UTIs. These groups include people with kidney infections and men with enlarged prostates. The failure to empty the bladder completely allows bacteria to develop in the urine that remains. The use of diaphragm contraception can also place pressure on the bladder, making it more difficult to empty the bladder completely.

What are the symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Symptoms of a lower UTI include:

  • Needing to urinate very frequently
  • An urgent need to urinate
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pain or burning on urination (dysuria)
  • Feeling that you cannot urinate fully
  • Cloudy or bloody urine

Symptoms of an upper UTI are the same but can also include:

  • A high fever (over 38C)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chills or shaking
  • Pain in the lower back or side, generally only on one side

Testing for Bacteria

In women, most lower UTIs do not merit further investigation as the pattern of symptoms is distinctive so a confident diagnosis can normally be made. All UTIs in men should be investigated further. If a man has discomfort when passing urine or if there is any redness around the tip of the penis or if there is discharge then we recommend a full screen from The STI Clinic. The tests are done by post and antibiotics are provided if the result is positive.

If blood is present in the urine then we recommend visiting your GP for a further investigation. This symptom is normally just the result of bacteria being present but it can sometimes be symptomatic of more serious problems so it is better to rule these out through further tests.

Urinary Tract Infections in pregnancy always merit further investigation because of the higher risk of complications.

Is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) treatable?

Urinary tract infections are usually mild and resolve themselves within 4 to 5 days. Antibiotics can be prescribed to speed up the recovery process.

Some women however find that they repeatedly develop infections, in which case long-term treatment with antibiotics may be required.

The Online Clinic can prescribe an appropriate antibiotic treatment to relieve the symptoms of a urinary tract infection in advance of need. Please click on the Free Consultation icon below to begin your consultation with a registered doctor.

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Can a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) cause long-term damage?

Urinary tract infections are usually easy to treat and have no long-term effects. However, pregnant women should be treated promptly, as they are associated with premature labour. In very rare cases, a UTI can cause kidney damage.

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