Urinary Tract Infection

Español: Infección de las vías urinarias

Do you have pain or burning when you urinate? You might have a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Antibiotics are needed to treat UTIs. Your doctor can determine if you have a UTI and what antibiotic is needed.

Urinary Tract Infection
In females, bacteria from the skin or rectum can travel up the urethra and cause a bladder infection.

A female urinary tract showing the bladder and urethra, demonstrating how bacteria from the skin or rectum can travel up the urethra.

What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

UTIs are common infections that happen when bacteria, often from the skin or rectum, enter the urethra, and infect the urinary tract. The infections can affect several parts of the urinary tract, but the most common type is a bladder infection (cystitis).

Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) is another type of UTI. They’re less common, but more serious than bladder infections.

Risk Factors

Some people are at higher risk of getting a UTI. UTIs are more common in women and girls because their urethras are shorter and closer to the rectum, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.

Other factors that can increase the risk of UTIs:

  • A previous UTI
  • Sexual activity, and especially a new sexual partner
  • Changes in the bacteria that live inside the vagina (vaginal flora), for example caused by menopause or use of spermicides
  • Pregnancy
  • Age (older adults and young children are more likely to get UTIs)
  • Structural problems in the urinary tract, such as prostate enlargement.
  • Poor hygiene, particularly in children who are potty-training

Symptoms

Symptoms of a bladder infection can include:

  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder
  • Bloody urine
  • Pressure or cramping in the groin or lower abdomen

Symptoms of a kidney infection can include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Lower back pain or pain in the side of your back
  • Nausea or vomiting

Younger children may not be able to tell you about UTI symptoms they are having. While fever is the most common sign of UTI in infants and toddlers, most children with fever do not have a UTI. Talk to a doctor if you are concerned that your child may have a UTI.

baby icon See a doctor right away if your child is younger than 3 months old and has a fever of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher.

When to Seek Medical Care

See a doctor if you have symptoms of a UTI. While most cases of UTIs can be treated outside the hospital, some cases may need to be treated in the hospital.

Please see your doctor for any symptom that is severe or concerning.

Treatment

Your doctor will determine if you have a UTI by asking about symptoms, doing a physical examination, and ordering urine tests, if needed.

UTIs are caused by bacteria and are treated with antibiotics. However, any time you take antibiotics, they can cause side effects. Side effects can range from minor reactions, such as a rash, to very serious health problems, such as antibiotic-resistant infections or C. diff infection, which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death. Call your doctor if you develop any side effects while taking your antibiotic.

Sometimes other illnesses, such as sexually transmitted diseases, have symptoms similar to UTIs. Your doctor can determine if a UTI or different illness is causing your symptoms and determine the best treatment.

How to Feel Better

Antibiotics will usually treat a UTI. If you are prescribed antibiotics:

  • Take them exactly as your doctor tells you.
  • Do not share your antibiotics with others.
  • Do not save them for later. Talk to your pharmacist about safely discarding leftover medicines.

Talk with your doctor and pharmacist if you have any questions about your antibiotics.

Drink plenty of water or other fluids. Your doctor might also recommend medicine to help lessen the pain or discomfort.

Prevention

You can help prevent UTIs by doing the following:

  • Urinate after sexual activity.
  • Stay well hydrated and urinate regularly.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
  • Minimize douching, sprays, or powders in the genital area.
  • Teach girls when potty training to wipe front to back.