A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria enter the urinary system. The urinary system includes the bladder, kidneys, the tubes that connect a kidney to the bladder and the tube through which urine exits the body. In most cases, a UTI occurs in the bladder or the urethra. Women are at greater risk than men of developing a UTI.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
Some people with a UTI do not experience any signs or symptoms. When they occur, UTI symptoms may include:
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Cloudy urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Lower pelvic pain
- Needing to urinate often
- Only being able to urinate small amounts of urine
- Strong urge to urinate that does not go away
- Urine that is red, pink or brown
What are the risk factors for a UTI?
The following can increase your risk for developing a UTI:
- Being female
- Being post-menopausal
- Being sexually active—especially having a new sexual partner
- Having certain conditions that suppress your immune system, such as diabetes
- Having kidney stones or an enlarged prostate
- Having recently undergone surgery near the urinary system
- Using a catheter (tube to drain urine from the bladder)
- Using certain types of birth control, such as a diaphragm or spermicidal agents
Can UTI risk be reduced?
You can take steps to help reduce your chances of developing a UTI. These steps include:
- Avoiding the use of scented feminine powders, sprays or douches
- Drinking cranberry juice
- Drinking plenty of fluids—especially water
- Urinating after having sex
- Wiping from front to back (in females)
How is a UTI diagnosed?
In most cases, your physician can diagnose a UTI by conducting a physical exam, asking questions about your symptoms, and running a urine test. Lab technicians will analyze the urine to determine if an infection is present.
If you have recurrent UTIs, your physician may order imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI to determine if a structural problem in your urinary system is causing the infections.
How is a UTI treated?
The initial treatment for a UTI is prescription antibiotic medications. Be sure to finish the course of antibiotics—even if you’re feeling better and your symptoms have subsided.
Your physician may suggest further treatment if you have recurrent UTIs. This may include:
- Taking a longer course of antibiotic medication—six months or longer
- Taking a low dose of antibiotic medicine after sex (if your UTIs are related to sex)
- Undergoing vaginal estrogen therapy (if you are a woman in menopause)
Find care at Catholic Health
Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.