If you've ever had a UTI, you know all too well how uncomfortable they can be. 

A UTI or Urinary Tract Infection affects your urinary tract as well as your bladder (cystitis), urethra (urethritis) or kidneys (kidney infection).

They're relatively common, especially as we get older, and tend to affect more women than men.

The NHS has broken down what causes the condition, the symptoms to look out for and how to treat a UTI.

The causes of UTIs

UTIs are usually caused by bacteria - usually poo - entering the urinary tract.

The health service explained that an infection happens when the bacteria enters through the tube that carries pee out of the body (urethra).

What causes UTIs in women?

Why women tend to have more UTIs than men is because women have a shorter urethra than men.

As a result, bacteria is reportedly more likely to reach the bladder or kidneys and cause an infection.

The NHS also explained that there are certain things that can increase our risk of getting a UTI including having sex and becoming pregnant.

Our risk also increases when we develop conditions that block the urinary tract like kidney stones as well as conditions that make it difficult to fully empty the bladder.

For instance, the NHS shares examples of  enlarged prostates in men and constipation in children.

A weakened immune system, not drinking enough fluids and not keeping the genital area clean and dry also can cause UTIs.

Gazette: These are the causes, symptoms and treatments for a UTI. ( (Thinkstock/PA)These are the causes, symptoms and treatments for a UTI. ( (Thinkstock/PA) (Image: Getty Images)

Do I have a UTI?

The NHS has shared some key symptoms to check yourself for on its website. They include:

  • pain or a burning sensation when peeing (dysuria)
  • needing to pee more often than usual
  • needing to pee more often than usual during the night (nocturia)
  • needing to pee suddenly or more urgently than usual
  • pee that looks cloudy
  • blood in your pee
  • lower tummy pain or pain in your back, just under the ribs
  • a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
  • a very low temperature below 36C

The health experts also pointed out that your pee may also appear dark or smell.

However, it urged that if this is your only symptom, it might be because you've not been drinking enough water.

Do you go to a GP for a UTI?

There are some important occasions that the NHS urges people to consult their GP when they think they have a UTI.

For instance, they recommend you visiting  a doctor when you're experiencing the symptoms for the first time or it is a child that is displaying the signs.

Other times to consult a doctor include:

  • you're a man with symptoms of a UTI
  • you're pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI
  • you're caring for an older, frail person who may have symptoms of a UTI
  • you have symptoms of a UTI after surgery
  • your symptoms get worse or do not improve within 2 days
  • your symptoms come back after treatment
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Can a UTI go away on its own?

"Sometimes a UTI will go away on its own. Most people will need antibiotics," according to the British Heart Foundation.

The charity elaborated that some people may be prescribed a ‘delayed antibiotic’ which means that they’ll be asked only to use it if their symptoms don’t go away after a certain amount of time.

How to treat a UTI

There are multiple ways that you can treat a UTI including by yourself, by consulting a pharmacist and then a GP.

By yourself

The NHS advises that there are a few things that we can do to ease the symptoms of UTIs by ourselves:

  • take paracetamol up to 4 times a day to reduce pain and a high temperature
  • you can give children liquid paracetamol
  • rest and drink enough fluids so you pass pale urine regularly during the day
  • avoid having sex

The health service also noted that some people opt to take cystitis sachets or cranberry drinks and products every day to prevent UTIs from happening.

The NHS conceded that this may help but added that there's no evidence to say that they help ease symptoms or treat a UTI if the infection has already started.

From a pharmacist

The experts also encourage people to ask their local pharmacist about treatments for a UTI.

The NHS explained that a pharmacist can offer advice on things that can help you get better as well as suggest the best painkiller to take.

Pharmacists can provide the same treatment as a GP (if they're suitable for you) as well as tell you if you need to see a GP about your symptoms.

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From a GP

Meanwhile, if a GP thinks you have a UTI then they will likely get you to do a urine test.

However, the NHS pointed out that this is not always needed.

In addition to this, a GP may also offer self-care advice and recommend taking a painkiller as well as give you a prescription for a short course of antibiotics.

To find out more about how to prevent UTIs and what to do when a UTI is recurring, consult the NHS website.