One in four women are likely to have a repeat Urinary Tracts Infection.
Have you experienced a bladder infection?
Bladder infections are common, especially among women. Research suggests that at least 40 to 60 per cent of women develop a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) during their lifetime, and most of these infections are bladder infections. One in four women are likely to have a repeat infection.
The urinary system is designed to keep bacteria out, but sometimes this fails and bacteria does enter the urethra. Occasionally, this can lead to an infection.
Urinary infections can affect different parts of the urinary tract;
- Bladder (Cystitis)
- Urethra (Urethritis)
- Kidneys (Kidney infection) - can be serious if left untreated
In women, the two most common types of urinary infections occur in the bladder and the urethra.
Signs of a Bladder Infection (Cystitis)
- Pelvic pressure/pain around the pelvis and pubic bone
- Lower abdomen pain
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
Blood in urine - may be the colour red, pink, or the shade of cola
Signs of an Urethra infection (urethritis)
- Burning feeling when urinating
Other Symptoms of an Urinary Infection
- Smelly urine
- Cloudy urine
- Tired and unwell
Other causes include pregnancy, urinary catheter, weakened immune system, type 2 diabetes, chemotherapy, HIV, and kidney stones.
Menopause can also be a factor for an UTI as there is a decline in the flow of estrogen and this can cause the urinary tract to become more vulnerable.
What Are the Causes of a Urinary Infection?
Infections found in the urethra are commonly caused by bacteria found in the anus, ie. poo entering the urethra. This can happen if a woman wipes her anus first and then her urethra, using the same piece of tissue.
Due to the urethra being close to the vagina, sometimes sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and mycoplasma, can cause urethritis.
Infections found in the bladder are often caused by E.Coli, a type of bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract. Sexual intercourse can sometimes cause an urinary infection as the urethra, vulva, vagina, and anus are close together.
How Can You Test for a Urinary Infection?
It can be a simple process to test for a urinary infection. The doctor will most likely ask you questions such as…
- How often are you urinating?
- Does it hurt to pee?
- Do you have any pain in your tummy?
- Does your urine smell?
- Is your wee cloudy?
Your doctor is also likely to take a urine test. You’ll be asked to wee into a pot and the doctor will use a dipstick to see if it shows any white, red, or bacteria that may indicate an infection. Your urine may also be sent off for further tests.
How Do You Treat a Urinary Infection?
Your doctor will likely prescribe you antibiotics to treat the infection. If the doctor believes it’s necessary, they can prescribe pain medication to help relieve the burning sensation when peeing.
However, if your infection is severe, or it keeps returning, there may be other options that your doctor will consider, such as…
- A longer course of antibiotics
- Stay in hospital
- MRI scan
Avoiding drinks that irritate you during this time may help, such as…
- Fizzy drinks
- Citrus juices
Self-Treating a Urinary Infection
Mild UTI’s may pass within a day or two and you may not need to take antibiotics.
To self-treat a mild infection in the first couple of days…
- Take paracetamol
- Use a hot water bottle on your tummy, between your thighs, or on your back
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink fluids
- Avoid sex as it may be uncomfortable
If your symptoms are not going away, you can see blood in your urine, you are pregnant, or you feel any worse, it’s important to seek medical advice straight away.
How Do I Prevent a Urinary Infection?
Here are some things you can follow to prevent a UTI from occurring…
- Wipe front to back after a wee or a poo
- Try to empty your bladder completely
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Have showers instead of baths
- Wear loose cotton underwear
- Pee after sex
- Use non-spermicidal lube
Here are some things to avoid to prevent you from getting a UTI…
- Use perfumed bubble bath, soap, or talcum powder
- Hold your urine
- Wear tight clothing or synthetic underwear, such as nylon
- Wear tight jeans or trousers
- Use diaphragms or spermicide lubricants
Natural Remedies To Help a Urinary Infection
The jury is out as to whether natural remedies help a UTI. Here is a list of natural options you can try, but it may be a case of trying them and see whether they work for you.
- Drink plenty of water
- Increase your vitamin C intake
- Drink unsweetened cranberry juice
- Take a probiotic
The NHS suggests that the supplement D-mannose and cranberry juice or tablets, may help to soothe a UTI. However, there is limited research to evidence that they help and some research has gone as far as contradicting this advice.
*Here are some supplements that have been studied that you may wish to try:
- D-Mannose: This is a type of sugar that is found in cranberries and has been shown to be effective in treating UTIs and preventing recurrence
- Bearberry leaf: Also known as uva-ursi. One study showed that a combination of bearberry leaf, dandelion root, and dandelion leaf decreased UTI recurrence
- Cranberry extract: Like cranberry juice, cranberry extract works by preventing bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
- Garlic extract: Garlic has been shown to have antimicrobial properties and may be able to block the growth of bacteria to prevent UTIs.
Remember to always seek the advice of your doctor before taking new medication.
The Bottom Line
Bladder and urethra infections are common in women. The infections are caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract.
The infections are often mild and can be treated with antibiotics and self-care.
If you’re worried about a UTI, or have been self-treating and your symptoms are not getting better, then speak to your doctor or nurse.
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