As it turns out, most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are infections of the lower urinary tract, which typically involves the urethra and bladder. They are way more common but less severe than infections of the upper urinary tract, which typically involves the kidneys.

But whichever the type of UTI, the symptoms can be distressing and it’ll be wise to minimise the odds of an infection. Dr Grace Huang, a resident doctor at DTAP Clinic, tells us more about the condition.

Symptoms and causes

According to Dr Huang, the common tell-tale signs of a UTI include pain when urinating, a persistent urge to urinate, frequent urination, cloudy or bloody urine, and foul-smelling urine. There might also be lower abdominal discomfort or pain, fever, nausea, vomiting and flank pain (pain around the right or left side of your lower back).

Sexual intercourse is one of the most common triggers for UTIs, but other causes can include incomplete bladder emptying (which can occur during pregnancy or with pelvic organ prolapse), abnormalities of the urinary tract such as kidney stones, menopause (which causes a drop in female hormone estrogen), and health conditions like diabetes or immunosuppression.

Antibiotics are required for treatment, and if the infection is mild, oral antibiotics should suffice. However, patients who are very ill or who have severe upper urinary tract infections may require intravenous antibiotics.

How to minimise risk

To avoid complications, it is crucial that a UTI be treated as quickly as possible.

‘If a lower urinary tract infection is left untreated, there is a risk that it will spread and become an upper urinary tract infection, involving the kidneys. If this happens, there might be a risk of permanent kidney damage, causing you to become very unwell,” says Dr Huang.

She adds that you can minimise your risk of infection by staying hydrated, urinating after sex, and wiping from front to back to not spread faecal
bacteria to the urethra. It might also be worth trying cranberry supplements as they have been shown to diminish certain UTI-causing bacteria that stick to the lining of the bladder.