Urinary tract infections – or UTIs – can be painful, annoying and recurring, if you don’t take action to reduce the chances of getting one. While more common in women, as they have shorter urethras, meaning bacteria can pass through more easily, the issue also affects men.
Symptoms of a UTI include needing to pee suddenly or more often than usual, pain or a burning sensation when peeing, smelly or cloudy pee, blood in your pee, pain in your lower tummy, feeling tired and unwell, and in older people, changes in behaviour such as severe confusion or agitation.
If you notice any pain and continuous discomfort then definitely chat to your doctor about it. While it may just be symptoms of a UTI, which can be treated with antibiotics, doing a urine test can rule out any other conditions. There are also things to be mindful of if you want to stop getting regular UTIs.
Stella Ivaz, a urologist at London Bridge Urology, tells HuffPost UK: “We give patients lifestyle advice, and that usually includes good fluid intake, making sure you empty your bladder regularly so flushing the system. Wipe the correct way. And sex is a trigger so try voiding after intercourse so if a few bacteria did have the chance to make their way up, you try and empty that as soon as possible.”
Sound advice – and read on for more details on how best to avoid UTIs.
Not urinating properly
It sounds simple, but just make sure you finish peeing and completely empty your bladder before you get off the toilet.
You might not be aware but you may be leaving the bathroom with urine still left inside. To make sure you get it all out, you can try a method called double voiding.
This includes weeing, then standing for a few seconds, before trying again. You’ll see residual urine now coming out.
This is a good way of avoiding a UTI as static urine can build up over time and cause the infection.
Taking care after sex
During sex, all sorts of fluids are exchanged and different orifices are used, so naturally it’s going to include the swapping of bacteria.
The reason that sex increases the likelihood of UTIs is because the physical act of love-making causes a woman’s urethra to come into contact with bacteria from the genitals and anus – hers and a partner’s. After contact is made, it’s easy for bacteria to travel up into the urinary system and cause an infection.
This is one of the reasons that women experience more UTIs than men. In fact, close to 80% of premenopausal women who get a UTI had sex within the previous 24 hours. To avoid the chances of a UTI, make sure to pee after sex to flush out any potential bacteria.
Not wiping properly
This is another one which sounds simple but alas, it isn’t always done properly.
If you’re wiping from down up – as in, from the anus towards the vagina, then you’re likely inviting rectal bacteria into it. Not wiping properly can cause cystitis or (more common) urethritis.
Cystitis is usually caused by E. coli, a type of bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract. However, sometimes other bacteria are responsible. Sexual intercourse may also lead to cystitis, but you don’t have to be sexually active to develop it.
Urethritis can occur when gastrointestinal bacteria spreads from the anus to the urethra. Because the female urethra is close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and mycoplasma, can also cause urethritis.
Diabetes and urological health issues are closely connected. Diabetics are prone to UTIs because diabetes can impact blood flow, nerves and sensory function in the body, indirectly worsening urologic conditions.
Over time, people with diabetes may lose some sensory function. This can make it hard to know that you have to go to the bathroom. As a result, people may wait too long to go to the bathroom, or if the urine stays in the bladder too long, it may raise your chance for getting a bladder or kidney infection.
And finally, Covid
Don’t sound the panic alarm just yet, as Covid-19 itself doesn’t put you at risk of having a UTI. But treatments for the virus have caused UTIs in some cases. People who received steroids or had been catheterised during their treatment for Covid may be at greater risk of infection.