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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can affect anyone. Symptoms normally include discomfort, a burning sensation when peeing, itchiness, or irritation.
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Urinary Tract infections: epidemiology, Mechanisms of Infection and Treatment Options. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 13(5), pp.269–284.
There are several types of UTI that can affect us. Cystitis is an infection of the bladder, urethritis is an infection of the urethra, and a kidney infection is, as you might expect, an infection of the kidneys.
Most UTIs occur when our urine becomes contaminated by bacteria that exist outside of the bladder, leading to inflammation and infection.
Depending on the severity or persistence of the infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics to treat it, but some UTIs can clear up on their own too. In any case, it’s important to manage any pain or discomfort with over-the-counter painkillers and drink plenty of water.
If your symptoms haven’t cleared up within a few days, it’s time to seek further treatment by speaking to one of our clinicians. Our clinical team will help you select the right medications for you, and they will check in to make sure that your treatment is working the way it should.
While UTIs can occur in anybody, they are more common in women because women have shorter urethras which are placed quite close to the home of the offending E. coli bacteria: the anus.
Older adults are also more at risk than younger men and children because, generally, the older we get, the more trouble we have emptying our bladders completely. Age-related conditions such as bladder weakness, bladder prolapse, or an enlarged prostate can lead to the build-up of bacteria and cause recurring infections.
While the statistics are not so high for men and children, it’s estimated that at least one in five women will suffer from a UTI at some point in their lives. Usually, the problem is treatable and shouldn’t have much impact on your day-to-to activities. But persistent infections should be managed with the help of treatments like antibiotics, so that symptoms don’t get worse and cause more health concerns.
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Most infections involve the lower urinary tract — the bladder and the urethra. 90% of all UTIs are caused by the E. coli bacteria, which lives harmlessly in our gut and intestines. When outside of the body, however, E. coli can be a harmful bacteria, especially when it ends up where it doesn’t belong. As a result, if it meets our urethra or comes into contact with our urine, then it causes problems.
Once urine becomes infected with a bacteria like E. coli, inflammation and infection can start to harm our urethras and bladders.
Most people experience a fishhook sensation, like a sharp pain when emptying your bladder. This can be incredibly unpleasant and distressing for children and vulnerable adults. There are other tell-tale indicators of urinary tract infection that we should also be aware of.
The most common symptoms of a UTI are listed below. Please be aware that these symptoms differ in children and elderly people. Generally, if you notice any of these symptoms in a person you care for, get in touch with a clinician to arrange a urine test.
If you have not had any previous diagnosis of a UTI and are noticing any of these symptoms for the first time, please consult your clinician:
UTIs are commonly treated with antibiotics, which, if taken correctly, clear up the infection within a couple of weeks. If you delay treating UTIs, or if you fail to take a full course of antibiotics, you risk the infection worsening. It’s important to take all medication as prescribed and complete any course of treatment so that small infections don’t lead to more serious issues, such as painful kidney infections. The E. coli causing a UTI could travel into the bloodstream resulting in a bloodstream infection.
If you’re unsure about any part of the treatment course, our clinician will be on hand to discuss any queries, worries or issues throughout the process. Just sign in to your account and send them a message.
Trends over time in Escherichia coli bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections, and antibiotic susceptibilities in Oxfordshire, UK, 1998-2016: a study of electronic health records. The Lancet. Infectious diseases, 18(10), 1138–1149. Available at:
The most effective treatment for many bacterial infections like UTIs is a course of antibiotics. This means you’ll be prescribed a one-off treatment that functions to kill the offending bacteria. Your treatment will arrive as tablets and capsules. As previously mentioned, it’s important to take the full course of medication. You may be tempted to stop taking the tablets once you start to feel better, but you should always complete your course of treatment. Otherwise, any remaining bacteria in your body can become resistant to antibiotics, which can result in infections returning and worsening.
There is no ‘best’ all-round treatment for UTIs as such, but there will be a best fit for you and your UTI because we’re all different.
Treatments should never really range in efficiency, but they can and do range in suitability. Factors such as price, diet, potential side effects, lifestyle, and identity can all impact upon finding the right treatment fit for you.
Our clinicians are trained to advise you on which medications will work best for you, and they will check in with you once you’ve chosen your treatment to make sure this is the case.
Sometimes UTIs can clear up on their own without the need for treatment. The first thing to try after noticing symptoms is normal painkillers like paracetamol, and to drink a lot of water to try and flush the infected urine out. But if symptoms persist beyond a few days, it’s probably time to get some antibiotics to help your body fight off the infection.
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