A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection in any part of your urinary tract system. This could be in your kidneys, bladder or urethra.
UTIs cause more than 8 million visits to health care providers each year.
UTIs occur mostly in women. About 50 percent of all females get a UTI during their lifetime and about 1 in 5 young women who get a UTI will have another UTI at some point. Men are generally less likely to get a UTI compared to women. But if a man gets a UTI, he's also more likely to get another one because bacteria can hide inside a man's prostate.
Most UTIs occur in the lower urinary tract and affect the bladder and urethra. This happens when bacteria gets into your urethra and travels up to your bladder. These bacteria can make the lining of your bladder and urethra irritated.
Most UTIs are not serious, but some infections can lead to more serious problems like kidney infections, which can be life-threatening. It's important to get UTIs treated right away.
Some individuals may have few or no symptoms; however, the usual symptoms of a lower tract UTI (bladder infection) include:
- pain or burning during urination
- urine that looks cloudy or smells bad
- pressure in your lower abdomen
- urge to urinate often
- need to urinate, but not being able to pass much urine
Upper tract UTIs affect the kidneys. This is a more serious UTI and should be treated right away. Symptoms of an upper tract UTI (kidney infection) include the same as lower tract UTI, but with:
- pain in the upper back and sides
- fever (>101.5•F)
While a bladder infection is not a medical emergency, the following individuals may have a higher risk for UTI complications, which can include a kidney infection:
- pregnant women
- people with diabetes
- people with kidney problems (kidney stones or blockages)
- older adults
- men with enlarged prostates
- people with incomplete bladder emptying and/or urinary retention
- people with indwelling catheters
Women who've gone through menopause are also at higher risk of developing UTIs. This is because they have less estrogen and estrogen helps to provide some level of protection against UTIs by keeping the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy. Women who use certain types of birth control such as diaphragms and condoms may also be at a higher risk of developing UTIs. For men and women alike, abnormalities or injuries to the urinary tract can also increase the risk of UTIs.
The most common treatment for bacterial UTIs is antibiotics. A urine test and/or urine culture at the doctor's office can confirm if you have a UTI and can help your doctor pick the best antibiotic for you.
If you have 3 or more UTIs per year, your health care provider may suggest additional tests or recommend you take a longer course of low-dose antibiotics. In some cases, your provider may recommend you take an antibiotic after sex to reduce your risk of UTIs.