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A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system, including your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract: the bladder and the urethra. Women are at a greater risk of developing a UTI than men.
Infection that is limited to your bladder can be painful and frustrating. However, serious consequences can occur if a UTI spreads to your kidneys. Doctors typically treat UTIs with antibiotics, but you can take steps to reduce your chances of developing a UTI in the first place.
Urinary tract infections don't always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do, they may include:
UTIs may be overlooked or mistaken for other conditions in older adults.
Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. The most common UTIs occur mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra.
Infection of the bladder (cystitis): This type of UTI is usually caused by the gastrointestinal bacteria E. coli, but may also be caused by other bacteria or sexual activity.
Infection of the urethra (urethritis): This type of UTI can occur when GI bacteria spreads from the anus to the urethra. Also, sexually transmitted infections can cause urethritis.
UTIs are common in women and many women experience more than 1 infection during their lifetimes. Risk factors specific to women for UTIs include:
When treated promptly and properly, lower urinary tract infections rarely lead to complications, but left untreated, a UTI can have serious consequences.
Complications of a UTI may include:
You can also take steps to prevent and reduce your risk of UTIs:
Antibiotics usually are the first line treatment for UTIs. Which drugs are prescribed and for how long depend on your health condition and the type of bacteria found in your urine.
Your doctor may also prescribe a pain medication that numbs your bladder and urethra to relieve burning while urinating, but pain is usually relieved soon after starting an antibiotic.
If you have frequent UTIs, your doctor may make certain treatment recommendations, such as:
For a severe UTI, you may need treatment with IV antibiotics in a hospital.
Please consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting or stopping any medication, taking any supplement, or beginning a health care regimen.