A guide to UTIs

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) usually involves the inflammation or swelling of the bladder caused by a bacterial infection. It’s known to affect both men and women. Even though urinary tract infections are very common and generally not life threatening, treatment with antibiotics may be needed, so seek advice from your doctor.

This page is designed to provide you with the information you need to learn more about the condition, answer your questions and make more informed decisions about your urinary tract health.

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What is a Urinary Tract Infection(UTI)?

A Urinary Tract Infection, or a UTI, is an infection in the bladder, kidneys, urethra and/or the urinary tubes (ureters) caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract.

This triggers the body’s natural immune response, causing the bladder lining to become inflamed, which can be uncomfortable at times and quite painful at others. Most UTIs are not serious or life-threatening, however if left untreated, they can lead to further medical issues, such as kidney infections that will require medical diagnosis by a doctor.

Urinary Tract Infections are considered very common and can affect all ages. It’s estimated that around 1 in 2 women and 1 in 20 men will have a UTI at least once in their lives.

How do I know if I have a UTI?

While only a medical professional like your GP can determine for sure if you have a Urinary Tract Infection, there are several UTI symptoms that you will notice which can be key indicators. These include:

  • Pain in your lower abdomen above the pubic bone
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Unusually frequent visits to the toilet
  • The sudden need to urinate
  • The feeling that the bladder is still full after going to the toilet
  • Seeing blood in your urine

It is important to see a doctor if you think you may have a UTI — if left untreated it can lead to serious complications.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or if you notice anything unusual, speak to your health professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
If you are also experiencing back or side pain, fevers and chills, nausea and vomiting, in addition to the above, you should seek medical assistance immediately.
For more information, visit our page: UTI Symptoms – Know when to see help

Are UTIs contagious?

UTIs are usually caused by bacteria such as Escherichia (E. coli) bacteria, they are not contagious. This means that it can’t be spread to other people through forms of direct contact.

What are the main parts of the urinary tract?

UTIs are infections that occur in your urinary tract – that’s in your kidneys, bladder or urethra – and are usually caused by bacteria. Different types of UTIs occur depending on which part of the urinary tract is infected:

Parts of the urinary tract include the:

Urethra – the tube through which urine travels from the bladder to the outside of the body.
Bladder – Most urinary tract infections involve the bladder. This occurs when bacteria travel up the urethra into the bladder. The bladder lining becomes inflamed and swollen, it can become painful to pass urine and when you do it may be cloudy or bloody.
Kidneys – remove waste and extra fluid from your blood to make urine.
Ureters – carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder

What is Cystitis?

Cystitis is the most common type of UTI and occurs when there is inflammation of the bladder due to an infection and must be medically diagnosed.
This usually occurs when bacteria enters the body through the urethra, which is the tube that transports urine away from the bladder for removal.
Once the bacteria, usually Escherichia coli (E. coli), enters, it can multiply rapidly in urine, making its way into the bladder.
The body responds to the intrusion, causing an inflammatory response to fight the bacteria. It’s this immune response that causes some of the common symptoms of cystitis.

Are Cystitis and UTIs the same?

Cystitis is a form of Urinary Tract Infection (and requires medical diagnosis).
Different types of UTIs occur depending on which part of the urinary tract is infected. Cystitis is specific to the bladder however other UTIs affect other parts of the urinary tract.

What are the causes of UTIs?

UTIs are caused by an infection, usually by bacteria. The majority of cases are the result of E. Coli bacteria which lives harmlessly in the gastrointestinal tract or around the anus. However, when it enters the bladder’s acidic internal environment, it can thrive, multiply rapidly and affect the lining of the bladder.

There are a few risk factors that can cause UTIs such as:

  • Frequent sexual intercourse (for women)
  • Reactions to certain drugs or medication
  • Poor hygiene practice
  • Radiation therapy
  • Use of harsh soaps and deodorant sprays near the groin
  • When a patient has a catheter in the urethra
  • Urinary tract obstruction

For more information, visit our CAUSES OF UTIs page.

What are the signs and symptoms of UTIs?

When you have a UTI you may notice some or all, of the following common symptoms:

Some of the symptoms include;

  • A burning pain or sensation when urinating
  • Wanting to urinate more frequently than normal
  • Feeling like your bladder is still full after passing urine
  • Pain in your lower abdomen above the pubic bone
  • Cloudy, bloody or smelly urine.

How are UTIs diagnosed?

If you experience any of the above symptoms, seek medical advice from your health professional. Your health professional will generally ask you for a mid-stream urine sample which they will then test for bacteria using a urinary dipstick test or send it away to be observed with a culture under a microscope. The results will be able to determine more accurately if you are suffering from a UTI. Just don’t leave your diagnosis too long. While some mild forms of UTIs can sometimes get better on their own, if they don’t, more serious complications such as kidney infection (that requires medical diagnosis) can occur.

How do UTIs affect women?

Women are more susceptible to contracting UTIs than men due to two main reasons;

  1. The female urethra is shorter and straighter, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder
  2. Due to hormonal fluctuations throughout their lives.

These hormonal events can occur;

  • After a complete hysterectomy
  • Certain times within the menstrual cycle
  • During menopause
  • Whilst pregnant

How do UTIs affect men?

While men are at a much lower risk of UTIs than women, it tends to be more common later in life.

The signs and symptoms of a UTI are similar for both men and women (frequent urination, urgency to urinate, burning sensations when urinating and cloudy, bloody or smelly urine) but the causes may be different and men tend to get them later in life.

How are UTIs treated?

UTIs are painful and uncomfortable, so you want to treat it as soon as possible. It is important to consult a healthcare professional who will advise on the most appropriate treatment for you.

The best option is to act as soon as the first symptoms start to show, such as when you feel a faint itchiness when going to the toilet and perhaps an uncomfortable ‘tingle’ feeling in your lower abdomen.

Self-care tips

  • Drink plenty of fluids to remain hydrated and flush out your bladder
  • Plenty of rest, to give your body time to recover
  • Use a urinary alkaliniser such as URAL Effervescent Powder, available in lemon or cranberry flavours, to help neutralise the acidity of the urine and provide relief from the painful, burning symptoms of UTIs. The extra liquid that you consume when drinking a sachet of URAL effervescent powder dissolved in a full glass of water acts to dilute your urine and well as helping to ‘flush’ the bacteria from your urinary tract.
  • URAL Daily Supplement High Strength Cranberry 60,000mg is a concentrated one-a day capsule to support urinary tract health and may reduce the risk of cystitis by discouraging harmful bacteria from attaching to the walls of your bladder and urethra.
  • Avoid acidic food and drink
  • Take painkillers, like paracetamol, to reduce the pain

Medical treatments

If your condition isn’t improving, you should immediately seek professional medical advice.

Your GP will test your urine, and based on the results, will provide an appropriate treatment plan.

If you suffer from UTIs regularly or your case is more severe than usual, your GP may refer you onto a specialist.

Of course, prevention is always better than cure!

There are some daily self-care tips that can be useful to help reduce your risk of UTIs, such as drinking lots of fluids and going to the toilet regularly.

For more information, visit our preventing UTIs page for tips on how to avoid UTIs.

How can UTIs be prevented?

There are some daily self-care tips that can be useful to help reduce your risk of UTIs, such as drinking lots of fluids and going to the toilet regularly.

For more information, visit our preventing UTIs page for tips on how to avoid UTIs.

Do you have more questions about UTIs?

Have a look through our FAQs page for answers to frequently asked questions about medically diagnosed cystitis, symptom relief and how Ural can help.


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Most UTIs are caused by bacteria

The infection spreads up the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of your body) and once it reaches the bladder.


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Getting to know UTI symptoms

Being able to recognise UTI symptoms is important so you can decide whether to consult a healthcare professional.


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A few self-care tips on prevention

So what can you do to prevent UTIs? Here are a few general tips to help you develop good urinary health habits.