Urinary Tract Infections also known as UTIs may appear common, but they can be uncomfortable and even serious if left untreated.

What is a UTI?

A UTI, or Urinary Tract Infection, is an infection that affects any part of your urinary system, which includes the kidneys, bladder, tubes, and external opening through which urine is expelled. UTIs most commonly come from germs, especially a kind called E. coli. These germs can sneak into your urinary system through the external opening and start causing trouble.

UTI’s can happen in different places, and we give them names based on where they are:

  • Bladder Trouble, also known as Cystitis. This is the most common one, and it makes you pee a lot or feel like you need to pee all the time, and it might hurt when you do pee.
  • Kidney Problems, also known as Pyelonephritis. This is a bad one that hurts your kidneys. You might have a high fever, back pain, and vomiting, along with the usual UTI signs.
  • Infection of the external opening, also known as Urethritis. This one hurts the external opening and causes a burning sensation when peeing.

Here are some of the most common causes of urinary tract infections – and a handful of helpful tips to prevent them.


Being constipated makes it difficult to fully empty the bladder, which means that normal bladder bacteria gets trapped in the left over urine. This can cause a concentration of bacteria leading to infection.


If you have high blood glucose, this also causes high levels of glucose in the urine. Glucose feeds bacteria and can cause an overgrowth of germs in the urinary system.


Not drinking enough water causes the urine, and in turn, the bacteria in the bladder to become concentrated. Again, this is harboring bacteria or germs that can cause infection.

Being female

Women have shorter urinary tubes and the tubes are closer to the back passage (anus), which can cause bacteria to enter the urinary system more easily than in men.

Urinary tract abnormalities

Abnormalities such as kidney stones can cause blockages in the tubes, causing a back up of urine where bacteria grow and cause a UTI.

Weakened immune system

As people age, the immune system becomes weakened. Certain medications and illnesses can also cause this. A weakened immune system cannot easily keep bacteria in check and this can lead to a UTI.


Sexual activity can push bacteria from outside into the urinary tubes and cause a UTI.

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

UTI symptoms can vary, but common signs include:

  • Frequent urination with small urine amounts each time.
  • Strong urge to urinate frequently.
  • Burning sensation during urination.
  • Cloudy, dark, bloody, or strong smelling urine.
  • Pain or pressure in the lower abdomen or back.
  • Fatigue or shakiness.
  • Fever or chills (this could mean a kidney infection).
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Confusion, delirium, irritability (more common in older adults).

How to prevent a UTI

Preventing UTIs involves simple lifestyle changes:

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps flush out bacteria from your urinary tract. Increase water intake during warmer months.
  • Wipe front to back: Always wipe from front to back after using the toilet to avoid spreading bacteria.
  • Urinate after intercourse: This flushes out bacteria that might have entered the urethra during sex.
  • Cranberry juice: Some studies suggest that cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs by inhibiting bacterial attachment to the urinary tract.
  • Good hygiene: Keeping the genital area clean can help prevent UTIs.
  • Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting pants: Cotton is soft, absorbent, and allows air to flow through. This means less opportunity for bacteria to thrive and grow. Even better, underwear made with moisture-wicking cotton is specially designed to pull moisture away from the body.
  • Avoid constipation: Drink enough fluids. Eat enough dietary fibre. Exercise regularly. Use the toilet when there’s an urge to pass a stool.

How are UTIs treated?

If you suspect a UTI, seek medical attention promptly. Treatment typically involves antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria causing the infection. It’s crucial to complete the full course of antibiotics, even if you start feeling better, to prevent recurrence or antibiotic resistance.

Talk with your healthcare team if you think you have a UTI. You may need an appointment to discuss your symptoms and collect a urine sample.

You should seek medical attention if you develop a fever, chills, disorientation, or back or side pain. These could be signs of a kidney infection, which requires treatment, or a blood infection which requires hospitalisation.

Your urinary health matters!