Definition

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system including:

  • Upper tract:
    • Kidneys
    • Ureter—tubes from kidneys to bladder
  • Lower tract:
    • Bladder
    • Urethra—tubes from bladder that lets urine pass out of the body

The infection can cause swelling in the tract. This makes it painful to pass urine. The infection may be named for the specific area of the urinary tract that it effects:

The Urinary Tract
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Causes

UTIs are caused by bacteria. The bacteria cling to the opening of the urethra. There they begin to grow and spread. The infection can then move up into the bladder. If the infection is not treated it can spread to the kidney. It can then lead to a severe kidney infection.

The bacteria often come from the colon or vagina. They are passed or moved toward the urethra.

Risk Factors

UTIs are more common in women.

Other factors that may increase your chance of a UTI include:

  • Being sexually active
  • Use of spermicide
  • New sexual partner
  • History of UTIs in sister, mother, or daughter

Some conditions may increase the chance of a UTI:

Symptoms

Some may not have any symptoms. Those that do have symptoms may have:

  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Small amounts of urine during urination
  • Pain in the abdomen or pelvic area
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Cloudy, bad-smelling urine
  • Increased need to get up at night to urinate
  • Leaking of urine
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and low desire to eat

An infection in the kidney can be more serious. Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of a kidney infection, such as:

  • Bloody urine
  • Low back pain or pain along the side of the ribs
  • High fever and chills

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. A sample of your urine will be studied for:

  • Blood and pus
  • Exact type of bacteria (not always needed)

Frequent infections may be caused by a blockage or structure issues. Tests can show images of the urinary tract. Options may include:

Treatment

UTIs are treated with antibiotics. You will probably start to feel better after 1-2 days. It is important to take all of the medicine, even if you feel better. A hospital stay may be needed with a severe infection. The antibiotics can then be delivered through an IV.

The infection may cause pain and spasms in the bladder. Your doctor may recommend medicine to help manage pain.

Prevention

To help decrease the risk of a UTI:

  • After sex:
    • Empty your bladder completely
    • Drink a full glass of water
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

If the UTI is due to a problem with the urinary tract it may need to be fixed. The repair may help prevent future infections.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2018 -
  • Update Date: 07/03/2018 -