Urinary Tract Infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) happens when any part of the urinary system becomes infected. This includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.

Urinary tract infections usually occur when bacteria enters the urine or urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply inside the bladder. Although the urinary system is designed to keep bacteria out, these defenses can fail. When that happens, bacteria can take over and turn into infection inside of the urinary tract. A majority of these infections involve the lower urinary tract, the bladder and the urethra. Women are at greater risk than men for developing a UTI. Infection limited to your bladder can be painful and annoying.

Causes and Symptoms

Simple UTIs (also known as acute cystitis or bladder infection) occur more commonly in women than men. This type of UTI is usually caused by E. coli, a type of bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Sexual intercourse may lead to cystitis, but you don’t have to be sexually active to develop it.

An infection of the urethra is known as urethritis. A UTI of this type can happen when GI bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra. Additionally, because the female urethra is close to the vagina, urethritis can be caused by sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes.

Common UTI symptoms include painful and frequent urination, urine that appears cloudy or reddish, fever and pelvic pain.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A urinalysis can confirm the diagnosis of a UTI. A urine culture can determine what type of bacteria is responsible for the infection and guide treatment by antibiotics. In most cases, simple UTIs will resolve with 3-5 days of antibiotics.