What is urinary tract infection (UTI)?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection involving the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. These are the structures that urine passes through before being eliminated from the body.
Urinary tract infections occur more commonly in women than men, with half of women having at least one infection at some point in their lives. Recurrences are common.
Urinary tract infections are caused by germs, usually bacteria that enter the urethra and then the bladder. This can lead to infection, most commonly in the bladder itself, which can spread to the kidneys.
Most of the time, your body can get rid of these bacteria. However, certain conditions increase the risk of having UTIs.
Women tend to get them more often because their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus than in men. Because of this, women are more likely to get an infection after sexual activity or when using a diaphragm for birth control. Menopause also increases the risk of a UTI.
The following also increase your chances of developing a UTI:
- Advanced age (especially people in nursing homes)
- Problems emptying your bladder completely (urinary retention)
- A tube called a urinary catheter inserted into your urinary tract
- Bowel incontinence
- Enlarged prostate, narrowed urethra, or anything that blocks the flow of urine
- Kidney stones
- Staying still (immobile) for a long period of time (for example, while you are recovering from a hip fracture)
- Surgery or other procedure involving the urinary tract
Lower urinary tract infection (cystitis): The lining of the urethra and bladder becomes inflamed and irritated
- Pain or burning during urination
- Frequency: more frequent urination (or waking up at night to urinate, sometimes referred to as nocturia); often with only a small amount of urine
- Urgency: the sensation of having to urinate urgently
- Hesitancy: the sensation of not being able to urinate easily or completely (or feeling that you have to urinate but only a few drops of urine come out)
- Cloudy, bad-smelling, or bloody urine
- Lower abdominal pain
- Mild fever (less than 101 F), chills, and "just not feeling well" (malaise)
Upper urinary tract infection (pyelonephritis): Symptoms develop rapidly and may or may not include the symptoms for a lower urinary tract infection.
- Fairly high fever (higher than 101 F)
- Shaking chills
- Flank pain: pain in your back or side, usually on only one side at about waist level