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UTIs affect a large percentage of the population

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Serena Wyman

Fundraising and Events Manager, The Urology Foundation

Urinary tract infections (commonly referred to as UTIs) are the second most common kind of infection after chest infections, but what is a UTI exactly? 

The urinary tract system consists of the bladder, urethra (the tube which carries urine out of the body from the bladder), kidneys and ureters (tubes which carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder).  

A UTI usually occurs when bacteria enter the tract causing infection and inflammation which makes urination both difficult and painful. A more serious side effect of a UTI is that the bacteria can multiply and spread from the bladder up into the kidneys and cause damage, it can sometimes result in septicaemia. 

A UTI usually occurs when bacteria enter the tract causing infection and inflammation.

Common symptoms of a UTI are: 

  • 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) 
  • Tummy pain or pain in your back, just under the ribs 
  • A high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery 

In milder cases symptoms can be relieved with basic measures such as taking painkillers and drinking plenty of water to flush out the system. However, if there is no improvement within two or three days it is important that you see your GP swiftly so they can prescribe something to end the infection.  

Generally, you are more likely to develop a UTI if:  

  • Your bladder is unable to empty properly. Urine left over in the bladder encourages bacteria growth.  
  • Pregnancy or an enlarged prostate can cause an inability to fully empty one’s bladder.  
  • You have kidney or bladder stones. These also cause blockages and the build-up of bacteria.  
  • You have a weak immune system.  
  • You use a urinary catheter. This is a tube inserted into the urethra to drain fluid. The catheter’s surface can provide bacteria with a place to multiply and a route for the bacteria to enter the urethra. 

Although it may be uncomfortable to discuss when and how you urinate, urinary infections must be addressed and can be treated swiftly, so if in doubt speak to your GP. 

The Urology Foundation is a charity funding research and training in all areas of urological cancers and diseases in order to improve survival and quality of life for sufferers. For more information visit theurologyfoundation.org 

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