Women in car with a urinary tract infection - UTIA urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection occurring anywhere in the urinary tract.  Most UTIs are caused by bacteria, which cause inflammation in the urinary tract.  The most common site for infection is the lower urinary tract, which involves the bladder and urethra.  Upper tract UTIs, involving the kidneys and ureters, are less common but often more serious.

Although both men and women can develop a urinary tract infection, the incidence in women is much higher.  More than 50% of women will develop a UTI during their lifetime.  Up to 30% of women will experience recurring infections.  UTIs account for many doctor visits each year.

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection are easy to recognize and generally unpleasant.  When the upper tract is infected, the patient will feel pain and tenderness in the upper back and sides.  This may be accompanied by fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.  Symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection include increased frequency of urination and a feeling of urgency to urinate without passing much urine.  There is typically a burning sensation when urinating.  There may be blood in the urine, and urine may be cloudy or dark colored.  A strong odor may be present in the urine.  Women may experience pelvic pain, while men may have rectal pain.

A person who suspects they have a urinary tract infection should see a doctor.  During the examination, the doctor will ask about symptoms and collect a urine sample.  The sample will be tested for the presence of white cells, red cells, and bacteria.  Additional tests may be ordered if the patient has recurrent infections.

Home remedies are not usually successful in treating UTIs.  Most patients will need an antibiotic.  The patient should finish the entire prescription of antibiotics, even if the symptoms are gone.  Drinking lots of water is recommended to flush the bacteria from the system.  Over-the-counter medications can be taken to reduce pain.

The following tips may help prevent a UTI.

  • Drink lots of water and urinate often. Do not hold urine for long periods.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. These drinks can irritate the bladder.
  • Wipe from front to back after urinating.
  • Urinate following sex.
  • Avoid the use of diaphragms or spermicide for contraception.
  • Avoid scented feminine hygiene products.
  • Wear cotton underwear, which helps keeps the genital area dry. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist conditions.