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urinary tract infections

Urinary Tract Infections - UTIs

A urinary tract infection is a bacterial infection that grows within the urinary tract - anywhere from the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder and through to the urethra.

Urinary tract infections may occur more often due to sugar in urine

Urinary tract infections can be a particular problem for people with diabetes as sugar in the urine makes for a fertile breeding ground for bacteria.

Urinary tract infections are characterised by two types:

  • Lower urinary tract infections or Cystitis - bacterial infection affecting the bladder and the tube that transports urine from your bladder out of your body via the penis or vagina (urethra)
  • Upper urinary tract infections or Pyelonephritis - bacterial infection affecting the kidneys and the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder (ureters)

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection

Lower urinary tract infection (affecting the bladder and urethra):

  • Pain or stinging when passing urine (dysuria)
  • Persistent feeling of the need to urinate
  • Cloudy and foul-smelling urine
  • Strong and bad smell of urine
  • Back pain
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection

Upper urinary tract infection (affecting the kidneys and ureters):

  • High temperature / fever
  • Constant shivering
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Back pain
  • Pain in your side (flank pain)

How serious are urinary tract infections?

Some people may find themselves particularly prone to UTIs. Upper urinary tract infections (pyelonephritis) are the more serious of the two. In this case the bacteria have managed to reach the tubes connecting the bladder (ureters) to the kidneys. If the bacterial infection reaches the kidneys (acute pyelonephritis) the problem becomes serious and hospital treatment may be needed.

Lower urinary tract infections (cystitis) affect bladder and the pipe from the bladder to the penis or vagina (urethra). Whilst less dangerous than upper UTIs, lower UTIs should be treated early to prevent the infection from reaching the ureters.

Treatment for urinary tract infections

Lower urinary tract infections can often be treated by taking antibiotics for a few days. Painkillers may also be taken to treat any associated stomach or back pain.

Upper urinary tract infections may be treated at home or in hospital depending on your condition.

Treatment will involve a longer period of suitable and safe antibiotics, at least a week. The pain can be treated with Analgesics, however, some painkillers, such as Ibuprofen are not suitable as they can up the risk of damage to the kidneys.

Causes of Urinary tract infections

UTIs can be caused by a variety of means:

  • Infection resulting from sexual intercourse
  • Having sex using a condom with spermicide
  • Kidney stones
  • A weaker immune system (diabetes can be a cause)
  • An enlarged prostate gland (men)
  • Wiping your bum from back to front (women) – bacteria such as E-coli can be passed from anus to the vulva (outer parts of the vagina) this way

UTIs are sufficiently common that most women are likely to get a urinary infection at some point.

In men, UTIs are much less common, however, in both men and women, diabetes significantly increases the chances of getting an infection.

Prevent UTIs from developing

    The following methods may help to lower the risk of urinary tract infection:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Keeping your blood sugar under good control
  • Drinking cranberry juice (although this may push your sugar levels up)
  • Try not to hold off the need to wee
  • Going to the toilet after sex
  • Making sure you regularly wash your genitals
  • In particular, washing your genitals before sex and after sex
  • Wiping your genitals with a clean towel after washing to avoid moist leading to breeding of germs

If you experience a lot of UTIs, you may wish to avoid the use of spermicides.
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