Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are common in women, with 1 in 5 adult women aged 20-65 experiencing a UTI at least once a year.

Approximately 50% of women will experience UTIs at least once in their life.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria is present within the urinary tract in significant numbers. The Urogynaecology Centre at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group, shares the risk factors, symptoms, prevention and treatment for urinary tract infection (UTI).

Urinary tract infection (UTI): How to prevent

  1. Wipe the groin area from front to back to prevent bacteria from spreading from the rectal area to the vagina and ascending to the bladder.

  2. Avoid potential irritants such as vaginal deodorants, vaginal douching agents and bubble baths.

  3. Wash the genital area often, especially before and after sexual intercourse. Voiding after intercourse is encouraged.

  4. Avoid use of diaphgrams and spermicide by considering other forms of contraception.

  5. Drink plenty of water.

  6. Empty your bladder fully to prevent bacteria from multiplying in the bladder.

  7. Seek prompt treatment for vaginal / lower genital tract infection to prevent it from spreading. Drinking cranberry juice can help to prevent UTI (find out more in the article here).

  8. Probiotics (live culture yogurt) have also been shown to reduce the chance of getting UTI as "good" live bacteria is introduced into the bowels of patients and reduces the chance of the "bad" bacteria in bowels spreading and causing UTI.

  9. A once-daily dose of an appropriate antibiotic may be indicated in patients with a history of multiple episodes of UTI to minimise the risk of recurrence of infection.

Signs of urinary tract infection (UTI)

Early recognition and adequate treatment of UTI is necessary to prevent complications. Signs to look out for include:

  • Painful, burning sensation during urination (dysuria)

  • High frequency and feeling of urgency of urination, even when there’s little urine

  • Cloudy, dark, foul-smelling or bloody urine

  • Discomfort in the lower abdomen

  • Fever, tiredness or shakiness

  • Nausea or back pain (signs of renal infection)

It is advisable to seek treatment if the infection doesn’t clear up in a few days. The infection is normally confined to the bladder, but may spread to the kidneys, which is serious and may cause permanent damage.

Risk factors for urinary tract infection (UTI)

Some factors that increase a women’s risk of developing UTI include:

  • Age: The rate of UTIs in women gradually increases with age.

  • Incomplete bladder emptying, which allows the residual urine to be rapidly infected by bacteria present. Causes include:

    • Pregnancy – about 15 per cent of pregnant women will experience a UTI

    • Bladder, uterine or any other pelvic organ prolapse

  • Sexual intercourse, which seems to trigger a UTI infection in many women, although the reason for this is unclear.

  • Use of diaphragm and condoms with spermicidal foam as contraceptives

  • Immunosuppression with certain medications or drugs

  • Diabetes

  • Menopause with the attendant loss of oestrogen

  • Abnormalities of the urinary tract, such as kidney or renal stones, which act as a focus for infection

  • Instrumentation of the urinary tract (e.g. catheterisation, cystoscopy)

Urinary tract infection (UTI): How to diagnose and treat

Diagnosis of UTI can be obtained from a well-taken history and physical examination. Specific tests to confirm UTI include a urine dipstick, urine analysis and urine culture.

The main treatment for urinary tract infection is antibiotics, together with an adequate intake (3–4 litres a day) of water and other fluids. The duration of treatment for UTI depends on the antibiotic in use.

Most patients can be treated on an outpatient basis. However, hospital admission for the management of complicated UTIs may be required for some patients.

What is recurrent urinary tract infection (recurrent UTI)?

Recurrent urinary tract infection is defined as having UTI three or more times in a year. This can be due to the same or different bacteria. In these cases, further investigations may need to be done.

See page 1 to learn more about recurrent urinary tract infections​ (recurrent UTI).​

Ref: T12

Check out other related articles:

Urinary Incontinence in Women: Types and How to Treat

Blood in Urine (Hematuria): When Is It a Concern (and When Is It Not)

What are Pelvic Floor Disorders and Where to Go for Treatment

Urinary Incontinence in Seniors

Faecal Incontinence Treatments (Non-surgical and Surgical)