What is Urinary tract infection (UTI)?

A UTI, also known as a bladder infection, is a type of bacterial infection of your urinary tract. Your urinary tract is made up of your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.

Your kidneys are located in your lower back. They are two bean-shaped organs, located just below your rib cage on either side of your spine. They’re in charge of removing waste from your blood.

Your ureters are the tubes that connect your kidneys to your urethra. They allow urine to leave your kidneys and enter your bladder.

Your bladder is a small, hollow organ that stores urine.

Your urethra is a tube that carries urine to your bladder. It also helps to prevent urine from leaking from your bladder.

What is the urinary system?

The urinary system is made of your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. These are all parts of your urinary system.

The urinary system also includes the tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder and the tubes that carry urine from your bladder to your urethra.

Your kidneys are where urine is filtered out of your blood. The filtering process is called the urinary system.

Your body removes waste from your blood through several organs, including your kidneys, liver, and lungs.

Your kidneys are responsible for removing waste from your blood by filtering it through a process called filtration. Over time, your kidneys can become damaged.

This is called renal failure. When your kidneys stop working correctly, your body will have to look for another way to get rid of toxins.

  • A fever
  • Chills
  • Pain in your side, back, or abdomen
  • Urinating frequently
  • Pain in your lower back
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • A frequent need to urinate

If you have symptoms of a UTI, you should see your doctor.

What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?

The symptoms of a UTI depend on the type of bacteria causing the infection.

The most common symptoms of a UTI in women are:

  • Pain in your lower abdomen, groin, or back
  • Frequent urination
  • Cloudy urine
  • Feeling like you need to urinate more often

Women who have been pregnant may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain in your lower abdomen
  • Pain in the side
  • Pain in the back
  • Pain on urination

Men who have a UTI may experience:

  • A burning sensation or pain on urination
  • A strong urge to urinate
  • A strong urge to urinate often
  • Blood in your urine

Certain symptoms of a UTI can be similar to other conditions. Always talk with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

How is a urinary tract infection diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They will also perform a physical examination.

Your doctor will likely examine the back of your thigh, which is the area where urine comes out of your bladder. The exam may also include the following:

  • Inspection of your urethra
  • Inspection of your bladder
  • Inspection of your kidneys

If your doctor thinks you may have a UTI, then they may order a urine test. This involves collecting a sample of your urine. Your doctor will send this sample to a lab for testing.

Your doctor may also order other tests to help confirm their diagnosis. Some of these tests include:

  • Urinalysis, which checks for the presence of bacteria
  • Urine culture, which checks for the presence of certain bacteria in your urine
  • X-ray, which can help rule out kidney stones
  • Kidney function tests

How is a urinary tract infection treated?

UTI treatment depends on the type of infection you have.

Antibiotics

If you have a UTI caused by E. Coli bacteria, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Your doctor will likely give you these antibiotics as a single dose or as a course of antibiotics.

If you have a bacterial infection, bacteria in your urine may be killed by the antibiotics. The medicine may be in your urine in your urine for a few days or weeks.

You’ll likely need to take antibiotics for at least 7 to 10 days. This is to ensure that all of the bacteria are killed.

You may also be given antibiotics to prevent the infection from coming back.

In certain cases, you may be given antibiotics as a preventive measure.

Pain relievers

Pain relievers may help ease your symptoms. These include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin).

Pain relievers can help reduce swelling. They also help to relieve pain in your lower back and groin.

You should not take these pain relievers if you have a fever.

UTI prevention

Preventing a UTI is important. The best way to prevent a UTI is to drink plenty of fluids. Drinking plenty of fluids can also help ease other symptoms of a UTI.

To help prevent a UTI, you should also:

  • Drink water or other fluids throughout the day. This helps your body stay hydrated.
  • Urinate more often. This helps to flush out any bacteria.
  • Urinate in a bathroom with a seat. This helps prevent urine from splashing out of your bladder.
  • Urinate after sexual activity.
  • Use a catheter. Catheter use is controversial, but some people use catheters to help prevent urinary tract infections.
  • Use a condom when you have sex.

Talk with your doctor if you’re planning on having sex. They can recommend the best way to prevent a UTI.

Surgery

If your symptoms don’t get better with over-the-counter pain relievers or antibiotics, your doctor may recommend surgery.

You may need surgery if you have a kidney infection. Your doctor may treat the infection with antibiotics. Surgery is only needed if the infection doesn’t respond to antibiotics.

Surgery is also used to treat a bladder infection in women. Your doctor may perform surgery if you have symptoms of a UTI.

The type of surgery your doctor recommends will depend on the type of infection you have.

How can a urinary tract infection be prevented?

There are ways to prevent a UTI. You should take the following precautions:

  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

The takeaway

Symptoms of a UTI can vary depending on the type of bacteria causing the infection. Bacterial infections are the most common type of UTI.

A bacterial infection of the urinary tract can cause pain in your back, side, or abdomen.

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