Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract, leading to an infection in any part of your urinary system. The micro-organisms enter through the urethra and although most infections involve the lower urinary tract, the bladder and urethra, they can multiply. In some cases this leads to infection in the kidneys and ureters.
Women tend to get more UTIs because the urethra is much shorter than in men.
Some symptoms of a UTI include:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate;
- A burning sensation when urinating;
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine;
- Lower abdominal pain, especially in women; and
- Urine that has a cloudy appearance and strong smell; if there is blood, the urine also may appear red, bright pink or cola-coloured.
It is not always necessary to do extensive investigations for simple infections. A urine dipstick checks for white blood cells and blood, while a urine culture test can find the type of bacteria that caused the infection to assist with antibiotic choice. Blood tests may be done to monitor kidney functioning.
Antibiotics are usually the first line of treatment for UTIs. Symptoms will often clear up within a few days of treatment, but you need to finish the entire course as prescribed.
To reduce UTI risk you can:
• Drink plenty of water. This helps dilute the urine and ensures you’ll urinate more frequently, allowing bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract before an infection can begin.
• Wash up before sex and urinate after sex. This keeps bacteria away from the urethra. Urinating afterward flushes out any bacteria.
• Wipe from front to back after urinating and after a bowel movement. This helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
• Avoid potentially irritating so-called “feminine” products. Using deodorant sprays, douches and powders in the genital area can irritate the urethra.