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Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary Tract Infections

Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) start in the lower urinary tract, which is made up of the urethra and bladder. Bacteria from the bowel live on the skin near the anus or in the vagina. These bacteria can spread and enter the urinary tract through the urethra. If they move up the urethra, they may cause a bladder infection (called cystitis). Bacteria that have infected the bladder may travel to the upper urinary tract, the ureters and the kidneys. An infection of the kidneys is called pyelonephritis. An upper urinary tract infection may cause a more severe illness than a lower urinary tract infection.


Women are more likely than men to get UTIs because the urethra is shorter in a woman than in a man. In women, the bacteria can reach the bladder more easily.


One sign is a strong urge to urinate that cannot be delayed. As urine flows, a sharp pain or burning, called dysuria, is felt in the urethra. The urge to urinate then returns minutes later. Soreness may be felt in the lower abdomen, in the back or in the sides.


Other signs may show up in the urine. It may have a strong odor, look cloudy or sometimes be tinged with blood. Blood in the urine also may be caused by other problems. Tell us if you see blood in your urine.


If the bacteria enter the ureters and spread to the kidneys, symptoms also may include back pain, chills, fever, nausea and vomiting. If you have any of these symptoms, tell us right away. Kidney infections are serious and must be treated promptly.


We will first do a simple test, called urinalysis, to find out whether you have a UTI. For this test, you will be asked to provide a urine sample.


Antibiotics are used to treat UTIs. Treatment is usually quick and effective. Most symptoms go away in one to two days. Be sure to take all the medication even though your symptoms may go away before you finish your prescription. If you stop early, the infection may still be present or could come back.