A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urinary system including the bladder, which stores and collects urine, and the urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body. While UTIs are very common, it is very important to treat a urinary tract infection as soon as possible as a UTI can spread and cause a kidney infection.
Women experience a higher risk for UTI than men, and women are more likely to experience more than one UTI in their lifetime, with some women experiencing repeat or chronic infections.
Once diagnosed, a urinary tract infection can easily be treated with antibiotics. There are preventive measures that may make infections less likely.
Causes of Urinary Tract Infections
The urinary system is designed to keep bacteria out of the urinary tract to protect itself from infection. However, sometimes this system fails, and bacteria get into the urinary system through the urethra, multiplying in the bladder.
The two most common UTIs occurring in the bladder and urethra include:
- Cystitis: an infection of the bladder usually caused by common bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Sexual intercourse may lead to cystitis; however, all women are at risk of cystitis due to the proximity of the urethral opening to the anus.
- Urethritis: an infection of the urethra which can occur from similar causes as cystitis, but also can be caused by some STIs.
Recognizing the Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infections do not always present obvious signs and symptoms. The most common symptom of a urinary tract infection is a frequent and urgent need to urinate.
Other symptoms include:
- A strong, persistent need to urinate, even after just having gone
- Pain or burning during urination
- Frequent, small amounts of urine
- Urine that is cloudy in appearance
- Urine that is red, bright pink or cola-colored (which is a sign of blood in the urine)
- Urine that has a strong smell
- Pain, pressure or soreness in pelvis, lower belly, back or sides
These symptoms do not always indicate a UTI. Frequent urination can also be a symptom of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or other vaginal infections. Only a doctor or nurse can properly check for a UTI.
If the infection travels to the kidneys, possible symptoms include:
- Pain in your mid-back (on either side of your spine)
- Extreme fatigue
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away as kidney infections are serious and need immediate treatment.
Common Risk Factors for Urinary Tract Infections
Risk factors for urinary tract infection include:
- Some kinds of birth control
- Sexual activity
- Female anatomy
Risk factors not specific to women include:
- Urinary tract abnormalities
- Obstructions in the urinary tract such as kidney stones
- A suppressed or weakened immune system
- Catheter use
- A recent exam or urinary surgery
When to See a Doctor about a Urinary Tract Infection
If you are experiencing frequent and painful urination and think you may have a urinary tract infection, call your doctor. Your doctor will test a urine sample for the presence of the specific bacteria that cause urinary tract infections.
If you do test positive for a UTI, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. As with all antibiotics, make sure to take the full dosage even if you are feeling better. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe a medication that will make urination less painful.
How Advanced Gynecology Can Help: Treatment Options for Urinary Tract Infection
If you are suffering from frequent, painful urination and abdominal pain, Advanced Gynecology is here for you.
Our board-certified team of women’s health experts are ready to help you with diagnostic care and a range of treatment options.
We will counsel you about the best options for you and your health.
In the meantime, drink plenty of water to help flush the bacteria from your system. While you may be reluctant to urinate due to the discomfort, the more fluids you pass, the less uncomfortable the urination may become.