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Understanding Incontinence

UTI Symptoms and Treatments

Often only associated with women, Urinary Tract Infections, or UTIs, affect people of any gender. Left untreated, sufferers can become very unwell, so learn to spot the symptoms and how best to avoid them.
Published by Suz Disher
UTI Symptoms and Treatments

What is the urinary tract?

The complete urinary tract, or renal system, consists of the kidneys, ureters, the bladder and urethra.


The kidneys filter the blood at a rate of about half a cup a minute, removing waste products and excess water. These combine to become urine, which runs through the ureters to the bladder for storage. The bladder contains a series of nerves which send messages to the brain when it needs emptying. When we get these messages and go the toilet, bladder muscles contract and the sphincter

relaxes to allow urine to be released and exit the body through the urethra.


What is a UTI?

Technically, a UTI describes an infection of any part of the urinary tract, including:

  • The urethra. Medically known as urethritis
  • The bladder. This infection is also called cystitis 
  • The kidneys. An infection of the kidneys is known as Pyelonephritis


The infection is typically sequential, starting in the urethra. If it doesn’t resolve, bacteria travel up the tract and infect the bladder. If that goes unnoticed or untreated, it can then proceed to the kidneys. A kidney infection is serious as it can cause permanent damage and leave you feeling extremely unwell. If you suspect any infection, book an appointment with your GP.


Informally, the term UTI is typically used to describe an infection of the urethra, so that will be the focus of this article.



What causes a UTI?

Bacteria are usually present in the urethra but in small numbers and regularly flushed out when urinating. When a more significant number take hold and begin to multiply rapidly, that’s an infection.

The bacterium associated with around 80% of UTIs 

is Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli. This bug is found in the digestive system and, particularly in women, can be transferred from the anus to the urethra, causing an infection. It’s perhaps also worth noting that a United States study showed that the incidence of UTIs among homosexual men was the same as their heterosexual counterparts.


The second most common bacterial cause of a UTI is Staphylococcus saprophyticus, which occurs on the skin and again, makes its way into the urethra.

Research published on the ScienceDaily website in 2017, claims that the vaginal bacterium, Gardnerella vaginalis, can triggers E. coli already hiding in the bladder to cause a UTI. This discovery may go some way to further explain the association between sexual activity and UTIs in women. It may also be a clue as to why some women experience reoccurring infections.



UTI symptoms in women

Women are 30 times more likely to experience a UTI than men, and in fact, half of all females will develop a UTI at some stage in their life. For some, it’ll be a once of occurrence, but for others, it will be debilitatingly regular.


Symptoms and severity can vary by individual, but here are the common ones associated with a UTI

  • A painful burning sensation when urinating. Not to be underestimated, many women describe the feeling as ‘like passing razor blades’
  • Frequent urgent urges to urinate, but then passing only a very small quantity. This symptom can also result in incontinence
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Pain around the pubic bone or lower back
  • Less usual, but the urine may contain blood or appear cloudy. This is more likely if the infection has spread to the bladder or kidneys

If the infection has reached the kidneys, fever, nausea, chills, and even vomiting may occur.



Symptoms of a UTI in men

Like women, the symptoms and their severity can vary, so don’t discount a UTI if you don’t have all of the following. If you suspect that you might have a UTI, make an appointment with your doctor as it’s unlikely to resolve itself and can lead to the more severe infection of the kidneys.


UTI symptoms can occur quite suddenly and include:

  • Severe pain when urinating, sometimes described as a burning sensation or even passing razor blades
  • Needing to urinate frequently, but often passing very little. The urge to go can be sudden and intense, and for some men, they won’t have time to get to the toilet and will experience incontinence
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Pain in the lower back or just above the pelvic bone – in some cases it will be both
  • Cloudy or blood-stained urine. This is less common and if often a sign that the infection has progressed to the kidneys

Men can also experience an infection of the prostate gland, medically called prostatitis, which can have similar symptoms to a UTI. The prostate is part of the reproductive system, not the urinary tract, but as the urethra passes through it, any infection can be transmitted between the systems. Symptoms for this include:

  • Pain in the lower back, abdomen or between the scrotum and rectum
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Painful urination



Warning: UTIs can be asymptomatic in children and the elderly
In the case of young children and the elderly, the symptoms listed above may not be present. Other indicators that someone has developed a UTI include:

  • The sudden onset of confusion
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • And in extreme cases in elderly, delirium


So, if you’re caring for someone who becomes unwell, it may be a UTI, and you must seek immediate medical advice.



UTI treatment
Although 25- 42% of uncomplicated cases resolve themselves, you shouldn’t rely on a UTI going away on its own. Left unmonitored, it can reach your kidneys, causing permanent damage and making you very unwell. Other conditions can also add complication.


Treatment of a UTI is simple, non-invasive and effective – so make an appointment to see your GP.


After discussing your symptoms, a sample of your urine will be tested to determine if you have a UTI and which bacteria are causing the infection. The doctor can then prescribe an appropriate course of oral antibiotics.


If you’re experiencing severe discomfort when urinating, ask your doctor about pain relief while the antibiotics kick in.


Drink plenty of water to help flush out the infection and together with the antibiotics, you should notice an improvement within two to three days.


Treatment is very straight forward, but as often highlighted in the media, repeated use of antibiotics is less than ideal. For that reason, where you can, take steps to avoid contracting a UTI in the first place.



Reducing the risks of a UTI

By being conscious of particular activities, you can reduce your chances of developing a UTI.


Good toilet habits

  • Drink plenty of water (around two litres a day – more if you’re exercising or it’s warm) to ensure you’re urinating up to six times a day to regularly flush out bacteria
  • Empty your bladder when you feel the urge, don’t hold on. Retained urine can create an environment that encourages bacteria to multiply. Try not to rush and make sure you’ve completely emptied your bladder
  • For women, always wipe from front to back to avoid contamination from the anus to the urethra – even if you’re only urinating



  • Clean the anal and genital area of both partners before having sex
  • Pass urine immediate afterwards to flush out bacteria
  • Some people have discovered certain positions of intercourse are more likely to trigger a UTI. Pay attention to what you’re doing, and if a UTI develops, you might also be able to make a link
  • Take care with acts that move from the anus to the vagina or vice versa
  • Choose condoms without spermicide
  • Women using an IUD or diaphragm who suffering reoccurring infections, should talk to their health care professional about alternative contraception as there’s a possible link
  • Although homosexual men are no more likely to experience a UTI than heterosexual men, everyone should practice good sexual hygiene to reduce the risk of any infection


General tips

  • Take a shower instead of a bath
  • Wear cotton or bamboo underwear and loose pants. Man-made fibres, tight jeans and pants can all create a warm moist environment in the genital area, encouraging bacteria to multiply and take hold


Keep in mind though, that even following all of these precautions, women in particular, are still very predisposed to UTIs and can continue to suffer reoccurring events. Never feel that it’s your fault.


Managing leaks
If the sudden urge to pass urine is catching you out, a TENA liner could be the solution for women or a TENA Shield for men. They’re both very thin, discreet and comfortable and ideal for a small leak.


Like all TENA products, liners and Shields are specifically designed to handle the thin, fast flow of a weak bladder. They rapidly absorb and lock away fluid, keeping you dry, odour free and feeling confident until the antibiotics take effect.

For more protection, take advantage of our Product Finder Tool, and Free Samples to find the product that best suits your needs,






Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.