Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of one or more parts of the urinary tract. The urinary tract includes the:
Kidneys, which make urine
Ureters, which are the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
Bladder, which stores urine
Urethra, which is the tube that drains urine from the bladder and out of the body
What is the cause?
Urinary tract infection is usually caused by bacteria. Normally the urinary tract does not have any bacteria or other organisms in it. Bacteria that cause UTI often spread from the rectum to the urethra and to the bladder or kidneys. Sometimes bacteria spread from another part of the body through the bloodstream to the urinary tract.
Some of the things that can lead to an infection are:
A blockage in the urinary tract, such as a kidney stone
A sexually transmitted disease or infection (also called an STD or STI)
Getting older, when it may get harder to empty and flush out the bladder completely
Having an enlarged prostate that keeps urine from draining out of the bladder completely
Having diabetes, a problem with the immune system, sickle-cell anemia, stroke, kidney stones, or any illness that makes it hard to empty the bladder completely
Use of a catheter to drain the bladder
Scarring in the urinary tract from previous infections or surgery
Urinary tract infection is less common in men than in women because the male urethra is long, making it difficult for bacteria to spread to the bladder. Men rarely get urinary tract infections before age 50, but they are more common in older men. Men older than 50 may have an infection but no symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of urinary tract infection may include:
Urinating more often
Feeling an urgent need to urinate or that your bladder is always full
Pain or burning when you urinate
Clear fluid or small amount of discharge from the penis
Pain in your lower belly, low back, or your side
Urine that looks cloudy, reddish, or bloody
Fever and chills or sweating
Nausea and vomiting
Leaking of urine
Change in amount of urine, either more or less
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Tests to diagnose a simple urinary tract infection may include:
If you are having more serious symptoms or frequent infections, you may need:
An intravenous pyelogram (IVP), which is a series of X-rays taken after your healthcare provider injects dye into your blood vessels to look for blockages in your kidneys and urinary tract
An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of the kidneys and urinary tract
A cystoscopy, which uses a slim, flexible, lighted tube passed through your urethra into your bladder. It is usually done by a specialist called a urologist.
How is it treated?
Your healthcare provider will most likely prescribe an antibiotic and medicine to help relieve burning and discomfort. Prompt treatment of a UTI usually relieves the symptoms in 1 to 2 days. If your infection has been causing symptoms for several days before treatment or if you have a fever, it may take longer to feel better.
Itâ€™s important to get prompt treatment for a UTI. If the infection is not treated, it could make you very sick and damage your kidneys. If the infection spreads to your blood, it can be life-threatening. If you are very sick, you may need to spend a day or two in the hospital and get antibiotics by IV.
How can I take care of myself?
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. If you were prescribed an antibiotic, take all of it as prescribed, even if you have no symptoms. Ask your provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
How long it will take to recover
If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
Drink plenty of water each day to cleanse your bladder and urinary tract unless your healthcare provider has told you to limit how much fluid you drink.
A hot water bottle or an electric heating pad on a low setting can help relieve cramps or lower abdominal or back pain. Keep a cloth between your skin and the hot water bottle or heating pad so that you donâ€™t burn your skin.
Soaking in a tub of warm water for 20 to 30 minutes may help relieve pain.
How can I help prevent urinary tract infection?
You can help prevent UTIs if you:
Drink enough liquids to keep your urine light yellow in color.
Drink a glass of cranberry juice each day. The juice should be real cranberry juice, not a cranberry-flavored drink.
Donâ€™t wait to go to the bathroom when you feel the need to urinate.
Empty your bladder completely when you urinate.
Practice safe sex. Always use latex or polyurethane condoms.
Urinate soon after sex.
Keep your genital area clean. Always wash your penis during baths or showers. If you are not circumcised, gently pull back the foreskin and wash the tip of your penis when you take a bath or shower.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-10-14 Last reviewed: 2014-05-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
National Kidney and Urinary Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Urinary Tract Infections in Adults. US Dept of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. NIH Pub. NO 12-2097, Nov. 2011. Web. <http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/utiadult/>.