Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) | Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prevention

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is the inflammation of the urethra, bladder or both of these. A UTI can occur due to an imbalance of bacteria which can occur anywhere in your urinary system. Although they are very common (affecting 10-20% of women at least once in their lifetime) they can be quite painful and more serious than people might think. Urinary tract infections are caused by far too little or far too much hygiene, sexual intercourse without adequate lubrication or enduring a procedure under general anesthesia which may have resulted in the triggering of, particularly harmful bacteria nearby to this sensitive area.

UTI symptoms

A UTI is characterized by specific symptoms based on how the urinary tract is infected.

The urethra and bladder are affected by lower tract UTIs. Lower tract UTI symptoms include:

•        Urine burning while urinating

•        Increased frequency of urination without passing much urine

•        Increased urgency of urination

•        Bloody urine

•        Cloudy urine

•        Tea or cola-colored urine

•        Strongly smelling urine

•        Females with pelvic pain

•        Males experiencing rectal discomfort

UTIs of the upper tract can affect the kidneys. Infections of the kidney can be life-threatening if bacteria get into the bloodstream. Under certain circumstances, a low blood pressure condition, shock, or death can result from a condition known as urosepsis.

These are some of the symptoms of an upper tract UTI:

•        pain and tenderness in the upper back and sides

•        chills

•        fever

•        nausea

•        vomiting

•        UTI symptoms in women

Women suffering from lower tract urinary infections may experience pelvic pain. They may also experience other symptoms. Men and women both experience similar symptoms when they have upper tract infections.

UTI symptoms in men

Men and women experience the same symptoms of an upper tract urinary infection. Rectal pain can occur alongside the typical symptoms of lower-trail urinary tract infection in men.

UTI treatment

UTIs are treated in different ways depending on their causes. Test results used to confirm the diagnosis will allow your doctor to determine which organism is causing the infection.

•    Bacteria are typically the cause of the infection. Bacteria-related UTIs are treated with antibiotics.

•    Viruses or fungi can be responsible for the infection in some cases. Patients with viral UTIs are treated with antiviral medications. In many cases, the antiviral Cidofovir is prescribed when treating viral UTIs. In fungus-related UTIs, antifungal medications are prescribed.

Antibiotics for a UTI

The type of antibiotic used to treat a bacterial UTI varies depending on which part of the tract is affected. The most common treatment for UTIs in the lower tract is oral antibiotics. Patients with UTIs in the upper tract need intravenous antibiotics. These antibiotics are injected directly into your veins.

Antibiotics can sometimes become resistant to bacteria. Your doctor will likely prescribe the shortest treatment course possible to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance. Treatment usually lasts one week.

A urine culture can help your doctor choose an antibiotic treatment that will work best against the type of bacteria that caused your infection.

Antibiotics are not the only option for treating bacterial UTIs. Eventually, bacterial UTIs could be treated without antibiotics by using cell chemistry to change the body’s interaction with the bacteria.

Home remedies for a UTI

It is unlikely that you can get rid of a UTI at home, but you can help your medication work well if you follow some tips.

Drinking more water may help your body rid itself of UTIs faster.

It is still unclear whether cranberries are effective in treating urinary tract infections.

Cranberry juice or cranberries do not treat a UTI once it has begun. However, cranberries contain a chemical that could help prevent certain types of bacteria from attaching to your bladder’s lining and causing a UTI. This could help prevent future infections.

Untreated UTIs

Treatment of a UTI so soon as possible is crucial. If left untreated, UTIs become more severe over time. The lower urinary tract is generally the easiest to treat. A urinary tract infection that spreads into your bloodstream may cause sepsis if not treated immediately. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition.

Contact your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you have a UTI. An examination and urine or blood test could save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

UTI diagnosis

If you suspect that you have a UTI, you should see your doctor. After reviewing your symptoms and performing a physical examination, your doctor will diagnose the problem. Your doctor will need to test your urine for microbes to confirm the diagnosis of a UTI.

To provide your doctor with a clean urine sample, you will need to request a “clean-catch” specimen. The urine sample is collected in the middle of your urinary stream, rather than at the beginning. By doing so, you avoid collecting bacteria or yeast from your skin, which could contaminate the sample. Ask your doctor for instructions on how to get a clean catch.

During the urine test, your doctor will look for a large number of white blood cells. An infection may indicate a large number of white blood cells. In addition, your doctor will perform a urine culture to check for bacteria or fungi. Cultures can help determine the cause of the infection. Doctors can use the results to determine the most appropriate treatment.

Upper tract UTIs

You may also need a complete blood count (CBC) and blood cultures in addition to a urine test if your doctor suspects you have an upper tract UTI. A blood culture can ensure that your infection has not spread into your bloodstream.

Recurrent UTIs

Your doctor may also want to check for abnormalities or obstructions in your urinary tract if you have recurrent UTIs. These tests include:

During an ultrasound, the scan is passed over the abdomen using a transducer. A transducer uses ultrasound waves to create an image of your urinary tract organs, which displays on a monitor.

An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is performed by injecting dye into your body that travels through your urinary tract and X-raying your abdomen. The dye provides a visual representation of your urinary tract.

Cystoscopy, in which a camera is inserted through your urethra and up into your bladder to see inside. Your doctor may remove a piece of bladder tissue during a cystoscopy and test it to rule out bladder inflammation or cancer as the cause of your symptoms.

For more detailed images of your urinary system, you may need a computerized tomography (CT) scan.

Causes and risk factors of a UTI

Anything that reduces the emptying of your bladder or causes irritation of the urinary tract can result in a UTI. Many factors can put you at an increased risk of getting a UTI. Some of these factors include:

•        Age — UTIs are more common in older adults

•        With limited mobility after surgery or prolonged bed rest

•        Kidney stones

•        A previous UTI

•        Obstacles or blockages of the urinary tract, such as enlarged prostates, kidney stones, and certain forms of cancer

•        Using a catheter regularly can make bacteria more likely to enter your bladder

•        Diabetes, which can increase your risk of UTIs if not controlled well

•        Pregnancy

•        Abnormally formed urinary structures from birth

•        Immunodeficiency

Additional UTI risk factors for men

Men and women have many of the same factors that cause UTIs. However, an enlarged prostate is one risk factor for a UTI unique to men.

Additional UTI risk factors for women

For women, there are additional risk factors. Women’s poor bathroom hygiene used to be considered a risk factor for UTIs. The study showed that these factors are no longer important. According to studies, wiping from back to front after going to the bathroom is not associated with UTIs in women, as previously believed.

Some lifestyle changes can sometimes help minimize the risks associated with these factors.

Shorter urethra

Women with long and located urethras are at increased risk for UTIs. In women, both the vagina and anus are very close to the urethra. Naturally occurring bacteria around the vagina and anus may cause infection of the urethra and rest of the urinary tract.

In addition, a woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s, so the bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.

Sexual intercourse

During sexual intercourse, pressure on the female urinary tract can move bacteria from around the anus into the bladder. After sexual activity, most women have bacteria in their urine. This bacteria is usually eliminated within 24 hours. In some cases, bladder bacteria adhere to the bowel bacteria.


Spermicides may cause UTIs. Some women experience skin irritation due to them. If bacteria enter the bladder, this increases the risk.

Condom use during sex

Latex condoms without lubricant may increase friction and irritate women during sexual encounters. The risk of UTI may increase as a result.

Contrary to popular belief, condoms are important for preventing sexually transmitted infections. Utilize enough water-based lubricant during your intercourse to reduce friction and skin irritation from condoms.


Diaphragms can put pressure on a woman’s urethra. This decreases bladder emptying.

Decrease in estrogen levels

A decrease in estrogen levels after menopause changes the normal bacteria in your vagina. These changes can increase your risk of urinary tract infections.

UTI prevention

To prevent UTIs, everyone can take the following steps:

•        Water should be consumed six to eight times a day.

•        Avoid holding your urine for an extended period of time.

•        Consult your doctor if you have urinary incontinence or difficulty emptying your bladder.

Women are much more likely to suffer from UTIs than men. The ratio is 8:1. The result is that for every eight women who have UTIs, only one man has them.

Women may be able to prevent UTIs by following certain steps.

In perimenopause or post menopause, a doctor may prescribe topical or vaginal estrogen to prevent UTIs. Your doctor may recommend antibiotics to prevent UTIs after intercourse or in the long run if they are convinced that intercourse is causing your recurrent UTIs.

In some studies, using antibiotics as a preventive measure to avoid urinary tract infections in older adults has proved to be beneficial.

Taking daily cranberry supplements or using vaginal probiotics, such as lactobacillus, may also help prevent UTIs. Studies have shown that using probiotic vaginal suppositories can reduce the occurrence and recurrence of UTIs by changing the bacteria in the vagina.

It is important to discuss your prevention plan with your doctor.

Chronic UTIs

After treatment, most UTIs disappear. UTIs that are chronic either don’t resolve on their own or keep recurring. It is common for women to experience recurrent urinary tract infections.

It is common for the same type of bacteria to reoccur in cases of recurrent UTI. However, some recurrent cases don’t necessarily include the same type of bacteria. Instead, an abnormality in the structure of the urinary tract increases the risk of UTI.

UTIs during pregnancy

Those who are pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI should see their doctor as soon as possible. UTIs during pregnancy can cause high blood pressure and premature birth. During pregnancy, UTIs are more likely to spread to the kidneys.

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