What causes a UTI and what can make it recur?

What causes a UTI and what can make it recur?

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What is a UTI?

A UTI is a “Urinary Tract Infection”, also known as “cystitis”. This means that bacteria have entered your urinary tract

What is the urinary tract?

The urinary tract is made of 4 areas:

  • The urethra – the tube connecting your bladder to the outside world (via your pee-hole)
  • The bladder
  • The ureters – the tubes connecting the bladder to each kidney
  • The kidneys
Authored by Dr Richard Bennett on 22.06.2017
Medically Reviewed by Dr Aifric Boylan
Last updated on 25.09.2018
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How common are UTIs?

They’re pretty common in women and unfortunately they tend to get commoner as you get older. Over half of women get a UTI at some point in their life.

What are the symptoms of UTI?

Symptoms can include:

  • Burning sensation when urinating (peeing)
  • Sudden urgent need to urinate
  • Urinating small amounts more often
  • Blood in the urine
  • Sudden onset of urinary incontinence (wetting yourself)
  • Low abdominal (tummy) pain
  • Flank (loin/back) pain
  • Fever

The last 2 symptoms on the list can be a sign of more severe infection and should be treated urgently.

Why do I get UTIs after sex?

The act of sexual intercourse can physically push bacteria into the urethra. This condition is known as “honeymoon cystitis”.

Why do I keep getting UTIs?

  • Sometimes bacteria simply re-enter the urinary tract
  • Sometimes bacteria may have remained in the urinary tract after the last infection
  • A woman’s urethra is far shorter than a man’s so it’s easier for bacteria to enter the bladder
  • After menopause the area of skin around the opening of the vagina becomes thinner. This means that bacteria can enter the urethra more easily

What should I do when I get a UTI?

  • If you think you have a UTI you should access advice from a doctor, particularly if you’re pregnant
  • If you’ve had more than 3 UTIs in a year you may require further investigation (for example an ultrasound scan to look at your bladder and kidneys)
  • If you’re getting frequent infections your doctor may prescribe a low-dose of an antibiotic every day as prevention.

Is there anything I can do to prevent UTI?

  • Stay well hydrated – drink plenty of water
  • Urinate after having sex
  • Don’t use harsh soaps on your private parts
  • Wipe yourself from front to back

If you have any concerns regarding UTIs, speak to your GP.

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About the Author:

Richard Bennett
Dr Richard Bennett is an experienced UK-qualified GP, based in Melbourne. He attended medical school at Imperial College in London, and subsequently worked at Charing Cross Hospital and Royal Surrey County Hospital, before completing his vocational training in General Practice. For many years he was a GP owner in Norwich, where he was also an Executive Board Member for the Local Health Authority. He is a full time doctor working in a busy Melbourne GP clinic, as well as a founder and director of Qoctor. He is a regular contributor on the topics of migraine and mental health.

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