A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection most commonly affecting the urethra and bladder, although in more serious cases it can penetrate to the kidneys. Women are more at risk of suffering from a UTI than men, as are people with higher sexual activity. The common contraction of a UTI as a direct result of sexual intercourse means that it can be transmitted sexually; however, it is not exclusively a sexually transmitted disease (STD). There are a variety of other ways that the disease can be contracted, and similarly, having sex with an infected person does not automatically you will contract it as well.

What is a UTI?

There are two main types of UTI: cystitis and urethritis. Cystitis is the infection of the bladder whilst urethritis that of the urethra. These occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract and develops and multiplies in the bladder.

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

– Repeated urges to urinate

– Short bursts of urination

– Pain, discomfort or a burning sensation whilst urinating

– Cloudy or discoloured urine (containing blood)

– Pungent urine

– Pelvic pain in females

– Rectal pain in males

How is a UTI sexually transmitted?

A UTI can be caused or exacerbated by sexual intercourse for a number of reasons. Bacteria that are already present on the vagina or vulva can be pushed into the urethra during intercourse. Similarly, intercourse can also push bacteria already present in the urethra into the bladder, where it will find conditions more conducive to multiplication. Furthermore, urine can also become inadvertently trapped in the bladder or the urethra during intercourse, which increases the likelihood of bacterial infection. In fact, some forms of contraception, such as the female diaphragm, can actually increase the chances of this happening by putting pressure on the urinary tract. And finally, bacteria which cause UTIs, such as E. coli, can also be passed from person to person during intercourse.

How is a UTI transmitted without sex?

A UTI can also be caused without intercourse. All it takes it for bacteria to reach bacteria to infiltrate the urinary tract, which can happen through urination. It is more prevalent in women simply as a result of their anatomy; there is a shorter distance between the vagina, urethra and anus, leading to a bigger risk of infection, and also the urethra is shorter in women than in men, meaning the bacteria has less distance to travel. Post-menopausal women are at an even greater risk, since the fallen levels of estrogen make the urinary tract more prone to infection.

How to treat a UTI

The most common form of treatment for UTIs is antibiotics. Make a list of medication and treatment you are currently taking when visiting the doctor as this may affect the prescribed treatment. However, prevention is always better than the cure and maintaining high levels of hygiene can do much to reduce the risk of contracting a UTI. There are several other prevention theories, such as urinating immediately after intercourse and drinking cranberry juice in order to acidify urine. Whilst statistical support of these methods is few and far between, they are certainly not detrimental and could be possible routes of prevention.

To book an appointment with a GP call Broadgate GP on 020 7638 4330 – Same day appointments available.