Urinary Tract Infections: Reducing the Stigma Surrounding a Common Problem

Urine infections are incredibly common, but something many people are too embarrassed to talk about. Here, we look at the common symptoms and how to reduce the risk of getting a UTI.


Urine infections are incredibly common, but something many people are too embarrassed to talk about. Here, we look at the common symptoms and how to reduce the risk of getting a UTI.

There are some very private, personal issues that most of us don’t like to talk about. Discussing our ‘waterworks’ is one of them! But urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a very common medical problem, particularly amongst the elderly and women. According to The Urology Foundation, the condition is responsible for 9 million GP visits every year. As it’s Urology Awareness Month this September, we thought we’d do our bit to reduce the stigma surrounding the subject and help the people we care for reduce their risk of getting a UTI.

What is a urinary tract infection?

The urinary tract is essentially the path by which we excrete urine from our bodies. It is made up of the kidneys, the ureters (the tubes that go from the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder and finally the urethra. An infection could begin in the kidneys via bloodstream or enter from the opposite end of the tract through the urethra. However the infection gets into your urinary tract, the results can be very painful and potentially serious if not treated promptly and effectively.

Older people can be particularly prone to developing urine infections for a number of reasons:

  • Muscles weaken as we age which means we may experience more problems with incontinence and our bladders may not empty as efficiently, meaning bacteria can accumulate.
  • Older people may have lower immunity and more health complications that increase their risk of infection such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, kidney stones, prostate problems in men and catheter use. 
  • Dehydration. Older people with mobility problems can sometimes limit their fluid intake so that they don’t have to get up and down to the loo so often. Those with incontinence issues might not drink enough for fear of having an ‘accident’. And people with conditions like dementia might not feel thirst signals or remember to drink fluids.

What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?

Common symptoms of a UTI can include:

  • A pressing or full feeling in the lower abdomen
  • Needing to pass urine more frequently
  • A painful burning or stinging sensation when passing urine
  • Changes to the colour or clarity of the urine, particularly if it’s dark, cloudy or bloody
  • Passing urine with a very strong or bad-smelling odour
  • Not passing much fluid when you do go to the toilet
  • Feeling tired, feverish and generally unwell
  • Aches and pains in the lower back/kidneys area

In more serious cases, people can experience vomiting, shaking and become delirious. A UTI is always best treated as soon as possible. Your local GP will usually ask for a urine test to be done and then prescribe antibiotics if you test positive. Leave it too long and it could become a health emergency very quickly.

How to lower the risk of getting a UTI

Drinking plenty of fluids (excluding alcohol or caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee as they are diuretics), keeping on top of your personal hygiene and emptying your bladder as soon as you need to can go a long way to helping stave off an infection. Wearing breathable, cotton underwear can also help as can making sure incontinence pads or briefs are changed when necessary.

If someone is struggling to manage their continence, it’s a good idea to seek professional medical help as soon as possible. A continence nurse will be able to advise on solutions and help the person manage their continence issues more effectively.

For more information on urinary tract infections, visit the NHS website.

If you or a loved one are finding it hard to manage a health condition and live independently at home, get in touch with us here at Bluebird Care Bromley. We provide a range of general and specialist homecare to customers across South East London. We’re always happy to have a chat about how we can help!