Women’s Health Week by Dr Hayley Glasson
September 4, 2023
Urinary Tract Infection (or UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, bladder and urethra. Around one in two women will develop a UTI in their lifetime, compared to one in 20 men, due to a short and straight urethra. Babies and older people are also at higher risk.
The most common symptoms of an UTI include:
- The need to urinate more frequently and urgently than usual
- Pain or burning sensation during urination
- Cloudy, pinkish coloured urine with a strong unpleasant odour
- Pelvic or lower abdominal pain
- Feeling unwell, fatigued and achy.
If you experience the symptoms of a UTI it is important to visit a health professional as soon as possible. If left untreated, UTIs can worsen and lead to more severe complications, especially if the infection reaches the kidneys.
If the UTI progresses and affects the kidneys, additional symptoms may include fever and pain in the back usually on one side, just below the ribs.
Your GP can diagnose a UTI through review of symptoms, physical examination, and a urinalysis or urine culture. They can perform a urinalysis during your appointment and send off a urine sample to be examined by a laboratory. Other possible causes for the symptoms, such as a sexually transmitted infection, may need to be ruled out through other investigations.
Treatment and recurrent UTIs
Most UTIs are effectively treated with a short course of antibiotics.
Occasionally UTIs can become recurrent. This can be due to inadequate treatment of the initial infection (as can happen with antibiotic resistance), or an ongoing underlying abnormality (eg. chronic constipation or genitourinary syndrome of menopause). If you have ongoing symptoms despite treatment, your GP can help investigate and manage.