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Urinary tract infection

What are they? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What are urinary tract infections?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common, especially amongst women, with around 50% suffering at least one in their lifetime. UTIs can affect the kidneys, the ureters (tubes that carries urine to the bladder from the kidneys), the bladder itself or the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body). The bacteria that cause UTIs can get into the body through the urethra or, less commonly, via the bloodstream.

What is a Urinary tract infection

UTIs can be concentrated either in the lower or upper part of the urinary tract, with upper UTIs being potentially more serious because of the risk of kidney damage. Lower UTIs include cystitis, which is an infection of the bladder, and urethritis, which is confined to the urethra.

Most UTIs are thought to be caused by bacteria which is transferred from the anus to the vagina when wiping after going to the toilet, but in some cases they're triggered by penetrative sex, which can irritate the urethra making it more vulnerable to carrying bacteria up the urinary tract.

Most people recover from UTIs with antibiotics, but in some cases, especially with upper UTIs, treatment in hospital is necessary, especially if you have any complications.

If you're pregnant and found to have an upper UTI, you'll almost certainly be admitted to hospital for intravenous antibiotics and fluids.

Recurrent UTIs need longer-term treatment, depending on the cause.

UTIs are very rare in men, affecting only around one in every 20,000.

What are the symptoms of Urinary tract infection?

The main symptoms of a lower UTI include: 

  • Pain or discomfort when peeing
  • A frequent need to pee, but then being able to pass more than a dribble of urine
  • Lower abdominal and/or back pain
  • Blood in the urine, cloudy urine, and generally feeling unwell. 

Symptoms of an upper UTI include:

  • A fever (temperature of 38 degrees C or higher)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Shivering and pain in your side, back or groin. 

Sometimes you can get all the symptoms of both lower and upper UTIs if the infection has spread.

What are the treatments and remedies of Urinary tract infection?

UTIs are usually treated with antibiotics, although some mild cases will resolve with home treatments. In any case, even if you are given antibiotics, you can help relieve symptoms with paracetamol. If you're pregnant you can still take paracetamol on the advice of your midwife or GP. 

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

Bounty will not be held responsible or liable for any injury, loss, damage, or illness, however this occurs or appears, after using the information given on this website and in particular the A-Z of Family Health.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net


Urinary tract infection