Consultant Urologist, The Urology Foundation
For many a urinary tract infection (UTI) is a painful but short-lived complaint, but for others it can be an ongoing issue.
For many people, as has now been acknowledged by the NHS via NHS Digital, a UTI can turn in to a recurring chronic problem that blights lives. These episodes can result in a large cost to the NHS and a significant amount of time off work.
Recognising signs and symptoms
It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms in order to seek prompt diagnosis and treatment. Common symptoms include:
- Pain or a burning sensation when peeing (dysuria)
- Needing to pee more often than usual during the night (nocturia)
- Pee that looks cloudy
- Needing to pee suddenly or more urgently than usual
- Needing to pee more than usual
- Blood in your pee (in which case see your GP as matter of urgency, as this can also be a symptom of a urological cancer)
- A high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
Recurring episodes of UTIs should not be dismissed and causes should be investigated.
There are a number of factors which can increase the likelihood of a UTI, including the use of spermicide and diaphragm contraceptive devices. Intercourse with a condom in the preceding two weeks as well as poor fluid intake can also be causes.
However, there is no evidence to suggest that vaginal douching, bubble baths or failure to pass urine following intercourse result in an increased risk of UTI.
Dipstick tests are often used to help diagnose UTIs. These are paper tests with a chemical strip which are dipped into a urine sample. The paper changes colour depending on what substances are present.
However, these tests can miss up to 50% of urinary tract infections. If the dipstick is negative but there are recurring issues, your GP will send a sample for analysis.
If a patient has four or more infections in one year, or if there is any blood in the urine, despite treatment then this warrants prompt referral to a specialist.
Treatment options for UTIs
UTIs are treated with antibiotics. If the infection is simple and there is no obstruction, then it can be cured within one to two days of treatment. However, you should always finish your course of antibiotics.
To help ease the pain, many people find a warm bath or hot water bottle useful. Try and avoid coffee, alcohol and spicy foods.
However recurring episodes of UTIs should not be dismissed and causes, such as deep-seated infection in the bladder, should be investigated.