Family Pharmacy

Urinary tract

A constant urge to urinate can be desperate

Family Pharmacy

Urinary infections are associated with different signs and symptoms and have an important impact on the quality of life. These infections can occur in the entire urinary system: kidneys (pyelonephritis), bladder (cystitis), urethra and ureters (urethritis), a condition usually caused by a bacterial infection, most of which is caused by the bacteria E. Coli.

Cystitis (the part where the bladder and urethra are involved) is more common in women than in men. This is due to the fact that in women the urethra is shorter and therefore closer to the anal region, facilitating the entry of microorganisms in the bladder.

Complaints associated to cystitis
Cystitis-Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms

Cystitis represents 90% of urinary infections in women, being usually acute and presenting the following associated complaints:

  • Burning or pain (dysuria) when urinating;
  • Constant urge to urinate (pollakiuria) and in small quantities;
  • Feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen;
  • Cloudy urine, strong odour, or blood in the urine (haematuria);
  • Low fever and mild low back pain;
  • Nausea and general malaise.

The symptoms related to urinary infections usually vary depending on the location of the infection. The presence of blood in urine may occur due to the bleeding of the urethra and bladder inner linings, and usually responds quickly to antibiotic treatment prescribed by a doctor. In a more serious scenario, it may mean a kidney infection.  

The presence of vaginal discharge with bad odour or colour change, severe vaginal itching, and severe pain during sexual intercourse, may indicate a vaginal infection.

Risk factors

Increased risk of urinary infection may be due to:

  • sexually active life;
  • menopause;
  • inadequate hygiene habits;
  • kidney stone;
  • diabetes;
  • pregnancy;
  • enlarged prostate.

Rapid urine test
Rapid urine test

Rapid urine tests

Rapid tests can be performed in some pharmacies to check whether it is a urinary tract infection or just a temporary bladder irritation. These tests are carried out using specific strips that are dipped in a urine sample, and they determine the presence of certain substances, indicative of a possible urinary infection.

Drinking water as a prevention of Cystitis
Drinking water as Cystitis prevention


Preventive measures include: 

  • Drink water (> or = 1,5L) and other liquids, especially those that help to maintain adequate urine acidity;
  • Avoid spending more than three hours without urinating (except at night), to expel unwanted bacteria. Also, do not hold your pee and always try to completely empty your bladder.
  • Urinate and wash your vagina after sexual intercourse;
  • Wash your vagina from front to back to avoid infections with bacteria from the intestine;
  • Wear cotton underwear, and avoid tight clothes;
  • Use non-aggressive washing products that do not destroy the normal flora of your vagina;
  • Take showers instead of baths;
  • Avoid wearing a wet bathing suit for a long period time, after swimming on the beach or pool. Dry your vaginal area each time after taking a shower.
  • There are food supplements that, either alone or in combination, can contribute to a healthier urinary tract. The most commonly used are bearberry, cranberry, hibiscus extract, vitamin C and some lactobacilli.

Impact of urinary infections
Impact of urinary infections

When should I see a doctor?

  • Fever, chills, low back pain, nausea, and vomiting;
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding;
  • In case of recurrent urinary infections (more than three times in a year or two times in the last six months);
  • In case of relapsed infections, which can happen two weeks after treatment;
  • In case of surgical intervention and/or recent hospitalisation;
  • Other health problems: uncontrolled diabetes, HIV, liver, or kidney failure;
  • Men and children with symptoms of cystitis should always be referred to the doctor.


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