A urinary tract infection, or UTI, happens because bacteria enter the urinary tract (the bladder, kidneys, and the tubes that join them together) and cause inflammation. A urinary tract infection is fairly common, and more common in women than in men, leading to typical symptoms of cystitis.
What are the symptoms of urinary tract infections?
The most common symptoms of a urinary tract infection are:
- Burning or discomfort when passing urine
- Going to the toilet frequently, but only passing small amounts of urine each time
- Cloudy or smelly urine
- Pain in your back
- Fever and chills
Recurrent urinary tract infections
There is often no clear reason why urinary tract infections keep returning. Infections are commonly related to sexual intercourse, the use of diaphragms for contraception, pregnancy, or low oestrogen levels in the vagina.
In some cases, a physical problem with the kidneys or bladder may be the problem, which can cause an increased risk of contracting urinary tract infections.
If you have an existing problem, your defence mechanisms may not be able to prevent a urinary tract infection. This can also lead to a higher chance of developing cystitis.
If you are suffering from repeat urinary tract infections, make an appointment with a urology specialist.
What is cystitis?
Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, and is usually caused by a urinary tract infection. It is a very common condition, with most women experiencing at least one infection in their lifetime, and one in five people suffering from repeat infections. Cystitis is more common in pregnant, sexually active and post-menopausal women.
In men, the most common cause is an enlarged prostate, which can cause men to not completely empty their bladder. In the case of a urinary tract infection in men, a thorough examination is required.
How can I prevent getting urinary tract infections?
There are a number of ways you can reduce the risk of developing a urinary tract infection, which can then lead to cystitis:
- Increase your fluid intake. Drinking lots of water and going to the toilet regularly helps to flush out any bacteria developing in the urinary tract. Avoid coffee, alcohol, fruit juice and fizzy drinks
- Avoid using deodorants, powders, around the vaginal area, and avoid taking bubble baths
- Do not wax or shave too close to the vaginal opening
- Avoid contraceptives using spermicide, such as diaphragms
- Empty your bladder after sex
- Some believe that cranberry juice is effective in avoiding urinary tract infections, although the evidence for this is mixed
- Antibiotics as a last resort. If you repeatedly get infections, a three to six month course of antibiotics may be required to halt the development of infections
- Supplements such as D-mannose and certain probiotic drinks have been shown to reduce urinary tract infections
- Vaginal oestrogen creams for post-menopausal women