Research indicates that left untreated, 25–42% of uncomplicated UTIs in women resolve spontaneously. However, if you suspect you have a UTI, the best course of action is still to book an appointment with your GP, because:
- If it doesn’t resolve on its own, it may spread to the bladder and kidneys, causing fever, nausea and even vomiting
- Self-diagnosing a complicated UTI (one where the typical treatment isn’t enough to cure it) is virtually impossible without a laboratory test to identify the bacteria involved
- Symptoms can be painful and debilitating
A UTI is a bacterial infection of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. About 90% of them are caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), typically found in the digestive system and are transferred to the urethra from the bowel. UTIs can also be triggered by vaginal flora entering the urinary tract and involve more than one strain of bacteria.
Symptoms of a UTI can vary type and severity, but typically include
- A distinct burning sensation when passing urine, which can be extremely painful
- Having many urgent requirements to urinate immediately, but then only passing a tiny amount of urine
- Pain in the pubic bone or lower back
- Unpleasantly smelly urine
- Bloody or cloudy urine is less common and usually a sign that the infection has progressed to the bladder or kidneys
At your doctor’s appointment, your symptoms will be discussed, and you’ll be asked to provide a urine sample to test which strains of bacteria are present.
Treatment is usually a course of antibiotics.
Alternative UTI treatments: facts and fiction
Many people are concerned about the over-use of antibiotics, and if used excessively, their efficacy can be diminished.
However, it’s worth knowing that some other remedies, once thought to be effective, are now in question.
- Cranberries, cranberry juice and cranberry extract
Although often promoted to treat and prevent a UTI, the same report cited aboveclaims thereis no conclusive evidence to support this. Some studies have found positive results; others have shown no improvement at all. Although historically thought to be true, this Cleveland Clinic article claims there is no benefit in taking any cranberry product in the treatment of a UTI. That said, there is no harm in any of these products, so you may want to try them, just don’t use them as a substitute for a medical opinion.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C can increase the acidity of urine, and there is weak evidence that that can decrease the risk of a UTI.
If you’re considering alternative treatments, discuss them with your doctor as a persistent infection, when spread to the kidneys can cause organ damage.
Who gets UTIs?
Although half of all women will experience a UTI, for many it’ll be a one-off or infrequent occurrence. For others, it’ll be a regular issue, with some factors beyond the individual’s control, such as genetic predisposition, conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury and kidney stones that affect urine flow or diabetes.
Other contributing factors include sexual intercourse, especially high frequency and multiple partners, some forms of contraception and pregnancy.
Temporary or permanent mobility restrictions, such as multiple sclerosis or extended illness can also impact the frequency of UTIs as can issues such as faecal incontinence and the use of a catheter and poor hygiene.
Less common than women, men can also get UTIs. It’s also worth paying particular attention to young children and the elderly, as in these groups, the symptoms may be vague or even not present. If you’re caring for someone like this and they become unwell, it could be a UTI, and you must take them to the doctor as soon as possible.
Tips to avoid UTIs
As mentioned, causes such as genetic predisposition or chronic disease can’t be altered, but there are still some habits you can adopt to minimise the chances of a UTI developing.
- Avoiding dehydration by drink plenty of water throughout the day. Regularly urinating will flush bacteria out of the urethra
- When you feel the urge to empty your bladder, go! Don’t hang on. Take your time and ensure your bladder has been completely emptied
- Always wipe the toilet paper from front to back after you’ve urinated or used your bowels
- Aim to urinate after sexual intercourse to flush away any bacteria
- Your contraception may be contributing to your UTIs, specifically if you use condoms, an IUD, spermicides or a diaphragm. These physical devices can be problematic for reoccurring infections so if you’re experiencing frequent UTIs, you might want to discuss alternative methods with your doctor
- Bacteria thrive in the warm, moist environment often created by synthetic fabrics and tight pants. To create a cool, dry environment, choose cotton or bamboo underwear and loose fitting pants
- Chose to shower over taking a bath
If the urgency to pass urine that comes with a UTI is catching you out, a TENA liner or TENA pad could be the solution. Specifically designed to handle the thinner, faster flow of a weak bladder, they rapidly absorb and lock away fluid, keeping you dry, odour free and feeling confident while the antibiotics take effect.
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Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.