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Urinary tract infections (UTIs / water infections)

A urinary tract infection, sometimes referred to as a 'water infection'  or 'UTI', is a common condition that occurs when germs get into the bladder or urethra. Women are more likely to be affected than men, but UTIs can affect both men and women. They are also more common in older people, and in people who have certain health conditions such as prostate problems, kidney stones or a weakened immune system. 

If you have a urinary tract infection, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • pain or burning when you pass water
  • an urgent need to go to the toilet often
  • being unable to pass water
  • pain in the lower back or lower tummy
  • running a temperature

UTIs can sometimes lead to more serious problems, including kidney infections.

In older people, UTIs may also cause temporary mood changes or confusion which can mimic the symptoms of dementia.

Although painful, embarrassing and annoying, UTIs are usually mild and often go away by themselves in a few days

If you have a UTI and it lasts more than a few days, go to see your GP. They will give you antibiotics which will clear up the infection.

Not all UTIs can be prevented, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of infection.

  • Avoid getting dehydrated, particularly in warm weather, by drinking plenty of water. If you don't like drinking plain water, add a small amount of cordial or fruit juice.  Cranberry juice is particularly good
  • Go to the toilet as soon as you feel the need, and try to make sure you empty your bladder completely
  • Wipe from front to back after going to the toilet
  • Keep yourself clean. Even if you're not able to bathe or shower easily, try to keep yourself clean 'down below' by gentle washing every day with a mild unscented soap and warm water, being sure to rinse and dry well.  Avoid perfumed soaps or scrubbing hard as this can cause irritation
  • If you're sexually active, try to empty your bladder before and after sex, and wash your genitals afterwards
  • If you use incontinence pads, these should be changed regularly to prevent bacteria from growing on them
  • If you have a catheter (a tube inserted in your bladder to drain urine), make sure that the tube doesn't become blocked or twisted, and change the bag regularly (or get someone to do this for you).

If you're worried about getting UTIs, talk to your GP. They will be able to give you more information about how to prevent UTIs and check any symptoms you're having.

The NHS website provides more information on UTIs.

The Bladder and Bowel Foundation has information about a number of bladder and urinary tract conditions, including UTIs. 

The Alzheimers Society provides advice on Urinary tract infection (UTI) and dementia