An infection in any part of the urinary system, the kidneys, bladder or urethra.
Urinary tract infections are more common in women. They usually occur in the bladder or urethra, but more serious infections involve the kidney. A bladder infection may cause pelvic pain, increased urge to urinate, pain with urination and blood in the urine. A kidney infection may cause back pain,
What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urinary system. This type of infection can involve your urethra (a condition called urethritis), kidneys (a condition called pyelonephritis) or bladder, (a condition called cystitis).
Your urine typically doesn’t contain bacteria (germs). Urine is a byproduct of our filtration system—the kidneys. When waste products and excess water is removed from your blood by the kidneys, urine is created. Normally, urine moves through your urinary system without any contamination. However, bacteria can get into the urinary system from outside of the body, causing problems like infection and inflammation. This is a urinary tract infection (UTI).
What is the urinary tract?
The urinary tract makes and stores urine, one of the body’s liquid waste products. The urinary tract includes the following parts:
- Kidneys: These small organs are located on back of your body, just above the hips. They are the filters of your body — removing waste and water from your blood. This waste becomes urine.
- Ureter: The ureters are thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to your bladder.
- Bladder: A sac-like container, the bladder stores your urine before it leaves the body.
- Urethra: This tube carries the urine from your bladder to the outside of the body.
Symptoms of a UTI may include:
- pain or a burning sensation when peeing (dysuria)
- needing to pee more often than usual during the night (nocturia)
- pee that looks cloudy
- needing to pee suddenly or more urgently than usual
- needing to pee more often than usual
- blood in your pee
- lower tummy pain or pain in your back, just under the ribs
- a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
- a very low temperature below 36C
Children with UTIs may also:
- have a high temperature – your child is feeling hotter than usual if you touch their neck, back or tummy
- appear generally unwell – babies may be irritable and not feed properly
- wet the bed or wet themselves
- be sick
Older, frail people or people with a urinary catheter
In older, frail people, and people with a urinary catheter, symptoms of a UTI may also include:
- changes in behaviour, such as acting confused or agitated
- wetting themselves (incontinence) that is worse than usual
- new shivering or shaking (rigors)
Over 50 percent Trusted Source of all women will experience at least one UTI during their lifetime, with 20 to 30 percent experiencing recurrent UTIs.
Pregnant women are not more likely to develop a UTI than other women, but if one does occur, it is more likely Trusted Source to travel up to the kidneys. This is because changes in the body during pregnancy that affect the urinary tract.
As a UTI in pregnancy can prove dangerous for both maternal and infant health, most pregnant women are tested for the presence of bacteria in their urine, even if there are no symptoms, and treated with antibiotics to prevent spread.
People of any age and sex can develop a UTI. However, some people are more at risk than others. The following factors can increase the likelihood of developing a UTI:
- sexual intercourse, especially if more frequent, intense, and with multiple or new partners
- poor personal hygiene
- problems emptying the bladder completely
- having a urinary catheter
- bowel incontinence
- blocked flow of urine
- kidney stones
- some forms of contraception
- procedures involving the urinary tract
- suppressed immune system
- immobility for a long period
- use of spermicides and tampons
- heavy use of antibiotics, which can disrupt the natural flora of the bowel and urinary tract
See a DOCTOR if:
- you have symptoms of a UTI for the first time
- your child has symptoms of a UTI
- you’re a man with symptoms of a UTI
- you’re pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI
- you’re caring for an older, frail person who may have a UTI
- you have symptoms of a UTI after surgery
- your symptoms get worse or do not improve within 2 days
- your symptoms come back after treatment
Can I prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
You can usually prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI) with lifestyle changes. These tips can include:
- Practicing good hygiene: You can often prevent UTIs by practicing good personal hygiene. This is especially important for women. Because the urethra in women is much shorter than it is in men, it’s easier for E. coli bacteria to move from the rectum back into the body. To avoid this, it’s recommended that you always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement. Women should also use good hygiene practices during their menstrual cycle avoid infections. Changing pads and tampons frequently, as well as not using feminine deodorants can also help prevent UTIs.
- Drinking plenty of fluids: Adding extra fluids, especially water, to your daily routine can help remove extra bacteria from your urinary tract. Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day is recommended.
- Changing your urination habits: Urination can play a big role in getting rid of bacteria from the body. Your urine is a waste product and each time you empty your bladder, you’re removing that waste from your body. Urinating frequently can reduce your risk of developing an infection, especially if you have a history of frequent UTIs. Drinking plenty of fluids will encourage this, but makes sure to avoid fluids and foods that could irritate your bladder. These can include alcohol, citrus juices, caffeinated drinks and spicy foods. You should also try to urinate immediately before and after sex. This could help flush out any bacteria that may have been introduced during intercourse. You can also wash the genital area with warm water before having sex. Don’t douche. This practice isn’t recommended by healthcare providers.
- Changing your birth control: Some women have an increased risk of developing a UTI if they use a diaphragm for birth control. Talk to your healthcare provider about other options for birth control.
- Using a water-based lubricant during sex: If you experience vaginal dryness and use a lubricant during sex, use one that is water-based. You may also need to avoid spermicide if you have frequent UTIs.
- Changing your clothing: Avoiding tight-fitting clothing can actually help keep you dry, preventing bacteria from growing in the urinary tract. You can also switch to cotton underwear. This will prevent extra moisture from getting trapped around your urethra.
In some post-menopausal women, a healthcare provider may suggest an estrogen-containing vaginal cream. This may reduce the risk of developing a UTI by changing the pH of the vagina. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have recurrent UTIs and have already gone through menopause.
Over-the-counter supplements are also available for UTIs. These are sometimes recommended for people who have frequent UTIs as another way to prevent them. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any supplements and ask if these could be a good choice for you.