Pokenga mimi Urine infections (cystitis)

A urine infection is often referred to as a urinary tract infection (UTI). The infection is caused by bacteria. They are usually treated quite easily with a short course of antibiotics.

Cause of urine infections

In a UTI germs get into your urinary system through the tube you pass wee through (urethra).

E. coli, which is a bacteria that lives in your bowel, is commonly the cause of the infection.

Women are more likely to get a UTI because the urethra is shorter so the germs less distance to travel to get into the bladder.

The infection can be in your wee tube (urethritis), your bladder (cystitis), or kidneys (pyelonephritis).

Urinary system showing kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra

Symptoms of a urine infection

Sometimes you will not have any symptoms and sometimes your symptoms can be mild. But you may experience:

  • pain, stinging or a burning feeling when weeing (urinating)
  • needing to wee frequently
  • wee that smells bad or looks cloudy or reddish
  • pain or tenderness in your tummy.

Urine infections can make frail older people very unwell. Often the only symptoms are being more muddled, sleepier, incontinent, off food or just generally unwell. Confusion and sleepiness can put older people at risk of falls.

Seek urgent medical attention if you also have a fever, back pain or nausea and vomiting as you may have a more serious kidney infection.

Diagnosing a urine infection

To diagnose a urine infection, your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and may examine you.

You may need to collect some wee in a container for a urine test.

Sometimes your healthcare provider will arrange a blood test to check for signs of infection and to see how well your kidneys are working.

If you are male, your healthcare provider may recommend tests to check your bladder, prostate or kidneys. This is more likely if you are under 50 or if you have an infection more than twice within a few months.

Treating a urine infection

A urine infection (UTI) is usually treated quite easily with a short course of antibiotics. Make sure you finish all the antibiotics, even if you are feeling better.

If you are a woman aged 16 to 65, you are not pregnant, and you do not have any other complicating factors, you can buy an antibiotic from some pharmacies without a prescription from a doctor.

You can take pain relief to dull the pain and lower your temperature. You should also drink plenty of fluids.

If you keep getting UTIs (recurrent UTI ) your healthcare provider may give you a low dose antibiotic to take every day for a few months.

If your urine test does not find any bacteria, you may have another cause for your symptoms such painful bladder syndrome or a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Preventing urine infections

There are several things you can do to help prevent urine infections:

  • drink plenty of fluid
  • for women — wee after having sex
  • for women — wipe from front to back after passing wee or a bowel motion.
There is no good evidence that cranberry juice or supplements can prevent infections.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)