Cystitis & Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections, also known as UTIs, are extremely common infections which can affect the bladder, kidneys or the tubes connecting these areas. UTIs tend to be more common in women, with some experiencing them regularly, however they can also occur in men and children. You may hear a UTI being referred to as Cystitis; this is because Cystitis is the name given to an infection or inflammation within the bladder.

Most UTIs will clear up on their own within 4-5 days of symptoms beginning, however more severe cases may need to be treated, sometimes with a course of antibiotics and you should therefore seek advice from your GP if you do feel your symptoms are not improving.

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection will differ depending which part of the urinary tract is infected. If the infection is within the bladder (this is also known as cystitis) or the urethra (the tube which carries urine out of the body) this is known as a lower UTI and symptoms may include:

  • A frequent need to urinate (a need to pee more than is normal for you) and may include a sudden urge to go to the toilet
  • A burning sensation or pain when you pass urine
  • Cloudy or dark urine, sometimes containing blood
  • A feeling that you have not emptied your bladder
  • Pain low down in your stomach and a general unwell feeling (achy, tired) 

An upper UTI is an infection of the kidneys or ureters (the tubes which connect the kidneys to the bladder).  Symptoms can include the above, however you may also experience:

  • A  fever (high temperature above 38C or 100.4 F) with shivering or chills
  • Pain in your sides or back
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Feeling confused, agitated and/or restless

If you think you may be suffering from a UTI consult your doctor quickly. Upper UTIs in particular can be serious if left untreated.

Your doctor may carry out a very quick and simple test of your urine to check for infection. If an infection is found it can be treated with a short course of antibiotics. Your doctor will discuss the length of treatment with you; he/she may also advise that you take over-the-counter medication such as paracetamol to help with the pain and continue to drink lots of fluids.

UTIs are usually caused by bacteria from the gut entering the urinary tract - this can happen through the wiping of your bottom or from having sex. Women are also more likely to experience UTIs as they have a shorter urethra than men and it is closer to their back passage. Being aware of the causes of UTIs may help you to prevent getting them in the future.

The following self-help measures are things you can try to prevent a UTI:

  • Wipe your bottom from front to back – particularly if you are female.
  • Empty your bladder soon after having sex to help remove bacteria which may have entered the urethra.
  • Wear cotton underwear rather than tight synthetic styles. Also avoid continuously wearing tight jeans or trousers.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Go to the toilet as soon as you feel the need to pee and ensure your bladder is emptied fully.
  • Avoid the use of spermicidal lubricants – often found on condoms and contraceptive diaphragms.

Make an appointment to speak with your doctor if you are at all concerned about your symptoms.

Sources used in writing this article are available on request.

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 18 November 2016

Next review: 18 November 2019