What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects any part of your urinary tract. That includes your kidneys (pyelonephritis), bladder (cystitis), urethra (urethritis), and prostate in men (prostatitis). 

What causes urinary tract infections (UTIs)?

Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria that normally live on the outside of your body entering your urinary tract via your urethra which opens to the outside. If the bacteria that enters the urethra travels to your prostate or bladder, an infection often occurs.  Untreated bladder infections can make their way to the kidneys which results in much more severe illness than infections that remain in the urethra, bladder, or prostate.

What are the common symptoms of urinary tract infections (UTIs)?

The symptoms of a UTI can vary depending on where the infection is most prevalent.

  • Urethra 
    • Pain, itching, or burning during urination
    • Discharge
  • Bladder
    • Pain in the pelvic area
    • Urinating more than usual
    • Increased urgency to urinate
    • Increased nighttime urination
    • Blood in urine
    • Stomach pain
    • Cloudy, dark, or strong-smelling urine
  • Kidneys
    • The symptoms of bladder infection plus:
    • Back pain
    • Fever
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting

How is a urinary tract infection (UTI) treated?

Treatment depends on what type of bacteria is found in your urine, how often you get UTIs, and other factors such as your medical history.

An uncomplicated UTI occurs when the infection only affects your urethra, prostate, and/or bladder. Treatment usually includes taking antibiotics for a few days as well as taking preventative measures to not make the infection worse.

A complicated UTI affects the kidneys and is a more serious infection. They are indicated by the presence of fever and chills, back pain, nausea, and vomiting.  Antibiotics will be required, and you may have to take them for a longer period of time compared to an uncomplicated UTI.  Many kidney infections require a brief stay in the hospital to receive IV antibiotics and close observation.  Kidney infections can result in serious illness and any suspicion should lead to an evaluation by your doctor or an emergency room.

What are the risk factors for urinary tract infections (UTIs)?

  • Gender – Women are much more susceptible to UTIs due to having shorter urethras than men.
  • Sexual activity – Sex can move bacteria making it easier for them to make it to your urinary tract.
  • Birth Control – Essentially all types of birth control have been shown to increase the likelihood of UTI in females.  And condom use increases the risk of UTI in men.  However, the risk of UTI with condom use does not outweigh the benefits of the protection it provides from sexually transmitted infections.
  • Extremes of Age – Infants (females more than males) and people over the age of 70 (men and women almost equally likely at this age) are much more likely to experience urinary tract infections.
  • Being Uncircumcised – The foreskin of the penis can trap bacteria near the urethra, greatly increasing the likelihood of infection.

How do you prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

  • Drink plenty of water – This helps dilute urine and makes you urinate more often. This reduces the chance of bacteria getting into your urinary tract.
  • Try cranberry juice or other acidic drinks – The body releases the acids in our food and drinks through the urine.  Although research is not conclusive, some studies link acidifying the urine to a reduction in UTIs.
  • Urinate after having sex – This is the most important action to help prevent UTIs.  Urinating after intercourse helps by washing the bacteria from your urethra before it can travel into your bladder, prostate, or kidneys.  It is beneficial for men and women.
  • Prophylactic Antibiotics – In rare cases, when a woman gets frequent UTIs related to sexual intercourse, her doctor will give her an antibiotic that she takes after each episode to reduce the likelihood of infection.

Seeking Medical Care for Your UTI

If you think you have a UTI, contact your primary care provider to set up an appointment. However, some UTIs may require an immediate diagnosis to prevent an infection from getting worse. CapRock is open 24/7 to best serve you, so give us a call or visit any of our locations to get treated.