Infections can occur in all parts of the urinary tract – the bladder, urethra, ureters and kidneys but infections to the bladder and kidneys are most common.

Bacteria found at the openings of the vagina, urethra and rectum can multiply and travel up into the bladder causing an inflammation or cystitis. Cystitis can be very painful and often last a long time or keeps recurring. Women and children have shorter urethras leading to the kidneys and because of this are more prone to infection although men can have cystitis as well. Women who are new to sex often find they have cystitis (honeymoon cystitis) or when they are pregnant or after menopause.

The most common symptom of cystitis is if you find it burns or stings to pass urine and you need to ‘go’ more often but only pass small amount at a time. Other symptoms can include a fever, chills, feeling unwell, confusion, vomiting, discoloured, cloudy or smelly urine or pain in lower back or stomach.

If you find you have any of these symptoms you need to visit your chemist or doctor who can suggest the best treatment for you. You can help relieve the symptoms by drinking 2-3 glasses of water as soon as you feel the symptoms starting and continuing to drink as much water as you can, this will help to flush out the bacteria. If you are feeling unwel, wrap up warm in bed and rest with a water bottle on your stomach to help ease the pain and avoid drinking alcohol, fruit juices, tea, coffee or soft drinks. Take a pain reliever such as a paracetamol if needed.

Remember prevention is better than the cure so try to drink as much water as you can every day – at least 8 glasses a day, empty your bladder completely each time you urinate and never try to hold on for long – go to the toilet as soon as you feel the need. When having sex, pass urine straight after sex and wash the genital area using a mild unperfumed soap before and after intercourse. Wearing cotton gusset underpants and loose fitting clothing will also help.

There are other infections which can occur in the urinary tract so see your doctor if your symptoms do not improve or keep coming back, if you leave infections untreated, they can spread to your kidneys and this can cause serious problems.

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