Urinary tract infections (UTIs) prevalence is highest amongst young women, with up to 20% experiencing one at some point in their lives. However, men can also be affected, and the risk increases with age for both sexes.
What is a urinary tract infection?
You may have heard a urinary tract infection described as a UTI, water infection or urine infection. It’s caused by the presence and growth of microorganisms or bacteria in the urinary tract. It can cause an infection in the kidneys, cystitis, also known as a bladder infection, infection of the urethra or the prostate gland.
A UTI is often diagnosed based upon the symptoms as well as having bacteria in the urine. A GP can test a urine sample with a urine dipstick and laboratory analysis. Treatment is often given in the form of antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing the infection.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of a UTI can vary but may include:
- Feeling the urge to pee suddenly
- Needing to pee more often than you normally do
- Burning sensation when you pee
- Feeling unwell
- Foul-smelling urine
- Cloudy pee
- Blood in your pee
- In older people, it can also cause confusion or agitation
What causes UTIs?
There are many things which can cause a urinary tract infection, including:
- Often caused by bacteria from faeces entering the urinary tract
- Urinary catheters – a tube inserted into the bladder to drain urine can cause a UTI
- A weakened immune system
- Kidney stones
- Enlarged prostate gland in men
- Constipation in children
Can they be prevented?
Sometimes a UTI can be prevented, but not always, some things you can do to lower the risk of an infection are:
- Always wipe from front to back when going to the toilet
- Fully empty your bladder when you urinate, if you can
- Have a shower instead of a bath
- Don’t use perfumed soaps
- Wear loose cotton underwear
- Practice safe sex and pee as soon after as you can
- Stay hydrated
How important is water in preventing UTIs?
Staying hydrated is essential for helping to prevent urinary tract infections. One study showed that women who drank an extra 1.5 litres of water per day reduced their episodes of cystitis by half.
Plus, not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration which can cause secondary symptoms including UTIs. Drinking more water helps to flush out the urinary tract and makes it more difficult for micro-organisms to inhabit the area. Therefore, helping to reduce the risk of infection.
Although, drinking eater is best, other fluids like tea, coffee, fruit juice, squash and milk count towards your hydration. But always bear in mind the sugar content of some drinks and drink water whenever you can. Fruits like watermelon and strawberries also improve your hydration status because they’re packed with water, too.
Farid, H. (2018). More Water, Fewer UTIs? Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/more-water-fewer-utis-2018101515035
Hooton, T, M et al. (2018). Effect of Increased Daily Water Intake in Premenopausal Women with Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Internal Medicine: 178(11), pp 1509-1515.
NICE. (2014). Urinary Tract Infections in Adults NICE Quality Standard. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs90/documents/urinary-tract-infection-in-adults-qs-draft-guidance-for-consultation2