A urinary tract infection is sometimes called a UTI. This is an infection of any part of the urinary tract like the bladder, the kidneys or the tubes that connect them. The most common UTI is in the bladder and this is known as cystitis.
Nearly half of all women are likely to get at least one UTI in their lifetime. Men are much less likely to get a UTI and if they do it is quite likely to be due to other health issues like kidney stones, or enlarged prostate.
A simple bladder infection in men or women can spread to your kidneys if it is left untreated. A kidney infection can be serious and may require hospital care.
UTIs can also be serious if you already have kidney problems or if you have other health conditions like diabetes. It is best to treat the infection quickly before it becomes more serious.
It is possible to have a UTI and not have any of the above symptoms. Some people (especially elderly) can get a UTI and not know until they are really unwell. The first signs for some people are agitation, delusions, significant changes in behaviour and maybe losing consciousness. In these cases it is important to go straight to hospital or all an ambulance.
You can buy products in the pharmacy (or have them prescribed by your doctor) that neutralise the urine so that it doesn’t burn when you wee. This will not clear the infection but will make you feel better until the infection is gone.
How to prevent urinary tract infections
Women should make sure they wipe their bottom from the front to the back. This will stop bacteria from your bottom getting into the urethra (where you wee out of).
It is a good idea to go and urinate (wee) after you have had sex. This washes out any bacteria that got pushed into your urethra.
Drink plenty of water; one and a half to two litres per day. This helps to keep the urine diluted and healthy. Drinking plenty of water is also good for your general health as it keeps your joints and body cells working well.
How to treat urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections are easy to cure if treated quickly. If left too long they can cause a serious whole body infection.
The best way to treat a UTI is with a simple antibiotic. The most common antibiotic for bladder infections can be purchased from your pharmacist. It can be sold to most women who get a UTI if they are between 16 and 65 years old and not pregnant. This requires a short consultation with the pharmacist. You might need to be referred to your doctor depending on your age and whether you have had several UTIs in the last few months or if the infection seems to be more serious. Men with a UTI should go straight to their doctor.
If you have had several UTIs in a few months, or if you have treated a UTI with antibiotics and not got any better; you need to go to your doctor. Your doctor is likely to ask you to do a sample of urine into a bottle for them to send to the laboratory. At the lab they will test your urine to see what sort of infection you have. The doctor can then prescribe the best antibiotic to get rid of your specific infection.
If you get frequent infections your doctor might suggest long term low dose antibiotics. Some people choose to take a regular probiotic that is specific for preventing and treating UTIs.
If you are not sure if you have a UTI, ask to speak to the pharmacist. They will help you choose the most appropriate treatment for you or let you know if you need to visit your doctor.
Written by Linda Caddick
This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked materials, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
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