What is Urinary tract infection (UTI)?

UTIs are caused by bacteria that live in your bladder, the tubes that connect your bladder to your kidneys. They can cause pain, burning, or even a strong urge to urinate.

UTIs are common. About 25% of women and 5% of men will get one at some point in their lives.

UTIs are more common in:

  • Older women
  • Pregnant women
  • Women who have had a C-section
  • Women who are undergoing pelvic or vaginal surgery
  • Women who are sexually active
  • Women with urinary catheters

UTIs are also more common in women with a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

UTIs can:

  • Cause a burning or stinging sensation when you urinate
  • Make you feel a strong urge to urinate
  • Cause a strong, concentrated urine stream
  • Cause your urine to appear cloudy or hazy
  • Cause you to have painful or frequent urination
  • Make it hard to hold urine, which can lead to urinary incontinence
  • Make you feel like you need to urinate a lot, even when you don’t have to
  • Cause a need to urinate more than usual
  • Cause a strong odor in your urine

If you have a UTI, you may also:

  • Have pain in your lower belly
  • Feel like you have to urinate more frequently or that your urine is cloudy or hazy
  • Have a burning sensation during urination

In some cases, you may also have:

  • A fever
  • Chills
  • A headache

What causes a UTI?

UTIs are caused by bacteria. These bacteria typically enter your urethra through the opening at the top of your penis and travel up to your bladder.

You can get a UTI by sharing a toilet seat, having sex, or even from swimming in a bathtub or shower.

UTIs are more common in women because their urethras are shorter and closer to the anus. Women also have more bacteria in their urethra than men do.

UTIs can also be caused by:

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Prolonged use of antibiotics
  • Pregnancy
  • A blocked urinary tract
  • A history of kidney stones
  • Urinary tract abnormalities
  • Prostate enlargement

Who is at risk of getting a UTI?

You may be at risk for getting a UTI if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have an infection in your urinary tract
  • Have a history of having urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Use a catheter (a tube that stays in your body)
  • Have an infection in your lower urinary tract
  • Have been sexually active
  • Are sexually active and don’t use a condom
  • Have had a C-section
  • Are male
  • Have a history of STIs

Can a UTI cause other problems?

A UTI can also cause:

  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • A frequent urge to urinate
  • Cloudy, hazy urine
  • Pain with sex
  • A strong smell in your urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Pelvic pain
  • Low back pain
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • In some cases, an infection in your kidneys

These symptoms are not always caused by a UTI. Always see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

What are some of the complications of a UTI?

Some of the complications of a UTI include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) that don’t get better on their own
  • Kidney infections
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

What are the risk factors for a UTI?

Some of the risk factors for a UTI include:

  • Being female
  • Using a catheter
  • Having a urinary tract infection (UTI) before or during pregnancy
  • Having had a prior UTI
  • Having a C-section
  • Having a history of STIs

How is a UTI diagnosed?

Your doctor may be able to diagnose or rule out a UTI after a physical exam and a urinalysis (a urine test).

Your doctor may also use imaging tests to look for signs of an infection. These may include:

  • Ultrasound
  • Cystoscopy
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Kidney scan

How is a UTI treated?

Treatment for a UTI depends on how severe your infection is and whether or not you have any complications. Your doctor may also treat the infection based on your symptoms and medical history.

Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat a UTI. These are usually taken orally. They can go away within a few days.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend a long-term treatment to prevent future UTIs. This treatment is called “urinary tract maintenance.” It can take time to get this treatment right.

How can I prevent a UTI?

The best way to prevent a UTI is to avoid having one. You can minimize your risk of getting a UTI by:

  • Not sharing a toilet seat
  • Not having sex
  • Not swimming in a bathtub or shower
  • Not having a catheter
  • Not using a condom

Key takeaway

UTIs are common and can cause symptoms like a burning or stinging sensation when you urinate and a strong urge to urinate. These symptoms can also cause other symptoms, like pain in your lower belly and problems with sex.

UTIs can cause complications like kidney infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and more. You can also get a UTI if you’re pregnant.

It’s important to be aware of any symptoms of a UTI. If you have any questions about whether or not you have a UTI, talk with your doctor.

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