Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system. The urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureters (tubes by which urine travels to the bladder), bladder (part of urinary system that stores the urine) and urethra (final tube through which urine passes out). Most infections happen in the lower urinary tract — the bladder and the urethra.

The risk of developing a UTI in women is very high as compared to men. It is one of the most common bacterial infections that happen in women. Around 50–60% of women develop UTIs atleast once in their lifetimes as opposed to men whose lifetime risk of developing UTI is only 13%. An infection limited to the bladder can be painful and annoying but if it spreads to the kidneys, it can pose serious health problems.

What are the symptoms of UTI?

UTIs don’t always cause symptoms, but when they do, it can include:

  • A burning feeling while peeing
  • A strong feeling to urinate that does not go away and when one actually goes to pee, only a little comes out
  • Urine that looks cloudy mostly but may also look dark, reddish (bloody) or strange-smelling
  • A feeling of tiredness
  • Presence of fever or chills (this may happen if the infection has reached kidneys)
  • Pain or pressure in the back or lower abdomen (pelvic area)

Types of UTIs

There are different types of urinary tract infections (UTIs) based on the affected part of the urinary system, each exhibiting distinct symptoms.

Bladder infection (Cystitis): Symptoms may include a frequent urge to urinate, pain or discomfort during urination, lower abdominal pain, and the presence of cloudy or bloody urine

Kidney infection (Pyelonephritis): This type of UTI may show up with pain in the upper back or side, alongwith a high fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.

Urethra infection (Urethritis): Causes a discharge and burning sensation while peeing.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical attention immediately.

What are the causes of UTIs?

Certain factors increase the likelihood of UTIs in women:

  • Using certain types of birth control such as diaphragms or spermicidal creams
  • Changes in the urinary tract after menopause.
  • Birth defects in the urinary tract
  • Blockages like kidney stones
  • Conditions like Diabetes can weaken the body’s defense (immune system)
  • The use of catheters (tubes placed into the bladder through the urethra to assist in draining urine when a person cannot do so on their own) or recent urinary procedures.

Are there any tests for detecting UTI?

If you experience symptoms or have risk factors, see a doctor. They may ask for a urine sample to test for bacteria. If UTIs are recurrent or if there’s a suspected urinary tract issue, additional tests like ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, or cystoscopy (long, flexible tube might be used to look inside your urethra and bladder) might be recommended

Treatments for UTIs

  • Antibiotics are the primary treatment. Finish the prescribed course even if symptoms improve.
  • Painkillers and heating pads may help reduce pain around abdomen
  • While some believe cranberry juice prevents UTIs, evidence is inconclusive.

Chronic UTIs

If you stop the treatment for your UTI without consulting your doctor, it’s more likely to come back. This happens because you can get infected again with the same or different germs, leading to a long-term UTI problem. So, it’s important to follow your treatment plan as your doctor advises.

About 20% of women experience repeat UTIs

Chronic UTI Treatment

Doctors recommend a treatment plan if a patient has suffered from three or more UTIs in a year. These options include taking:

  • Taking a low dose of an antibiotic over a longer period to help prevent repeat infections
  • Taking a single dose of an antibiotic after sex (an infection trigger)
  • Antibiotics for 1 or 2 days every time symptoms appear
  • A non-antibiotic preventive medicinal treatment
  • At-home urine tests, available without prescription, that help a patient to decide if they want to approach the doctor. If antibiotics are taken for a UTI, testing is to confirm if infection is cured

Prevention of UTI and recurrence of UTI:

Prevention of UTI in the first place is the most important as once the infection sets in, it may be difficult to completely eradicate it.

  • Ensure that the bladder is completely empty while urinating to prevent chances of infection from any remaining urine in the bladder
  • Don’t delay urination.
  • Wipe from front to back after using the toilet
  • Drinking lots of water is extremely important to flush out the bacteria
  • Avoid using feminine products such as hygiene sprays, or any scented bath products; they might increases irritation or even cause allergy adding to the complication
  • Wash the genital (the area of the vagina) area with water before and after sex.
  • Urinating post-sex flushes out any bacteria that may have entered the urethra.
  • Certain birth control methods such as diaphragm, unlubricated condoms, or spermicidal jelly should be prevented as they may increase bacteria growth or irritate the urinary tract.
  • Wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes aids in keeping the genital area dry. Avoid tight clothes such as tight jeans and nylon underwear.


  1. Al-Badr A, Al-Shaikh G. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women: A review. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2013 Aug;13(3):359-67.
  2. Pritam Pardeshi. Prevalence of urinary tract infections and current scenario of antibiotic susceptibility pattern of bacteria causing UTI. Indian Journal of Microbiology Research, July-September 2018;5(3):334-338
  3. Urinary tract infection (UTI). (November 2023). Mayo Clinic.
  4. Urinary tract infections (UTIs). (November 2023). WebMD.

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