Key Points about Urinary Tract Infections

  • Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) are infections that can develop in any section of the urinary system, but are most common in the urethra and the bladder.
  • Symptoms of a UTI may include burning feeling while urinating, a frequent and urgent need to empty the bladder, and pain in the pelvic area—although not all UTI’s cause symptoms.
  • Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat a urinary tract infection.
Common related conditions
Overactive Bladder

Overview

Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) are a common issue that are particularly prevalent in women—although men can also be affected. These infections can develop in any section of the urinary system, but are most common in the urethra and the bladder. Common symptoms include a burning feeling while urinating, a frequent and urgent need to empty the bladder, and pain in the pelvic area.

UTI’s are often treated with antibiotics. Call your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of a urinary tract infection.

Urinary tract infection causes

UTI’s are caused by bacteria that enters the urinary tract, and often migrates to the bladder where it begins to multiply. These infections often affect women, and usually occur in the urethra and bladder. Common causes of bacteria transfer to the urinary tract include:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Stool that comes into contact with the urethra

Urinary tract infection risk factors

Female anatomy puts women at an increased risk of developing UTI’s. Factors that may increase risk of a UTI in women include:

  • Sexual activity, particularly with a new partner
  • Menopause
  • Certain forms of birth control, such as diaphragms

The following factors may also increase risk of developing a UTI:

  • Kidney stones
  • An enlarged prostate
  • Being immunocompromised
  • Using a catheter

Urinary tract infection symptoms

UTI’s may be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • A burning feeling while urinating
  • Cloudy, pink, red, brown or foul-smelling urine
  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • A frequent, urgent need to empty the bladder
  • Urinating only small amounts when attempting to empty the bladder

Urinary tract infection complications

Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to:

  • Sepsis, or an infection that spreads from the urinary tract to the rest of the body
  • Infections that return after initial treatment
  • Damage to the kidneys

Urinary tract infection prevention

Measures to prevent UTI’s that are specific to women include:

  • Wiping from the front to the back after using the bathroom
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Urinating as soon as possible after intercourse

Urinary tract infection diagnosis

When diagnosing a UTI, your doctor may:

  • Look at your bladder through a cystoscope
  • Take a urine sample to look for bacteria
  • Analyze bacteria from the urinary tract in the lab, to determine which antibiotics to use
  • Provide imaging procedures, such as a CT scan or MRI, to view your urinary tract

Urinary tract infection treatment

Your doctor may prescribe one of several types of antibiotics to treat a UTI.

When to seek care

Call your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of a urinary tract infection.

Next Steps

If you experience recurring UTI’s, your doctor may prescribe a lower dose of antibiotics for a longer period of time. Your doctor can also recommend home remedies and other lifestyle modifications to prevent UTI’s from returning.