Urinary Tract Infections

A urinary (POOR-ih-nair-e) tract infection, or UTI, is an infection that occurs in any part of the urinary tract. The urinary tract is made up of the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys.

What Are Urinary Tract Infections?

A urinary tract infection, often referred to as a UTI, is an infection that occurs anywhere in the urinary tract. The urinary tract consists of:

An infection in the bladder, called cystitis (sys-TI-tis), is an inflammation of the bladder characterized by frequent, painful urination.

What Are the Causes of Urinary Tract Infections?

The organs of the urinary tract, any of which may become the site of infection.

The organs of the urinary tract, any of which may become the site of infection.
Illustration by Frank Forney. © 2016 Cengage Learning®.

While most urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria * , they can also be caused by viruses *

Organisms enter the urinary tract through the urinary opening (meatus) and travel upward through the urethra to the bladder. An untreated bladder infection can move upward through the ureters to cause an infection in the kidney.

Some practices that can increase the chance of a urinary tract infection are:

Who Is at Risk for Urinary Tract Infections?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, urinary tract infections are the second most common infection in the body. Women are four times more likely to get urinary tract infections than men because women have a shorter urethra than men. In men, urinary tract infection may be associated with prostatitis * or urethritis * . Additionally, people who have any of the following conditions have an increased risk for getting a urinary tract infection:

People who have had one urinary tract infection are at increased risk for having another.

What Are the Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections?

Symptoms of urinary tract infection affecting the bladder include:

If the infection involves the kidney, additional signs include:

How Are Urinary Tract Infections Diagnosed and Treated?


The healthcare provider obtains a health history by asking specific questions such as:

A physical examination is done and urine samples are obtained and analyzed under a microscope to determine the specific organisms that are causing the infection. A urine culture * may also be done to determine the most effective medication to treat the infection.

The person may be referred to a urologist, a physician who has specialized knowledge and experience treating diseases of the urinary tract. If the individual has repeated or frequent episodes of urinary tract infection, additional testing may be done to determine if there are abnormalities in the urinary tract. Ultrasound * Treatment

Most urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotic * medications. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotic medication prescribed. If a person stops taking the medication when signs and/or symptoms go away, the infection may return more aggressively. UTIs caused by fungi are treated with antifungal medication (Fluconazole), while those caused by viruses are rare and may be treated with other medications.

Phenazopyridine is a medication that helps with the pain and need to urinate frequently from urinary tract infection. The drug is available without a prescription. Additional recommendations are to drink plenty of water to help flush the bacteria from the urinary tract. Carbonated beverages should be avoided during treatment for urinary tract infection as they may cause greater discomfort.

Can Urinary Tract Infections Be Prevented?

Urinary tract infections can be prevented by:

See also Bacterial Infections • Herpes Simplex Virus Infections • Kidney Disease • Kidney Stones • Prostate Problems: Overview • Yeast Infection, Vaginal


Books and Articles

Henneberg, Susan. Urinary Tract Infections. New York: Rosen Young Adult, 2015.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Urinary Tract Infection.” http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/uti.html (accessed April 4, 2016).

MedlinePlus. “Urinary Tract Infections.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/urinarytractinfections.html (accessed April 4, 2016).

Merck Manual: Consumer Version. “Bladder Infection (Cystitis).” http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/kidney-and-urinary-tract-disorders/urinary-tract-infections-uti/bladder-infection (accessed April 4, 2016).

Merck Manual: Consumer Version. “Overview of Urinary Tract Infections.” http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/kidney-andurinary-tract-disorders/urinary-tract-infections-uti/overviewof-urinary-tract-infections (accessed April 4, 2016).

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “What I Need to Know about Urinary Tract Infections.” (accessed April 4, 2016).

WomensHealth.gov . “Urinary Tract Infection Fact Sheet.” Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/urinary-tract-infection.html (accessed April 4, 2016).


American Urological Association Foundation. 1000 Corporate Blvd., Linthicum, MD 21090. Toll-free: 800-828-7866. Website: http://www.urologyhealth.org (accessed April 4, 2016).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1600 Clifton Rd., Atlanta, GA 30333. Toll-free: 800-232-4636. Website: http://www.cdc.gov (accessed April 4, 2016).

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 3 Information Way, Bethesda, MD 20892-3580. Toll-free: 800-891-5390. Website: http://www.niddk.nih.gov (accessed April 4, 2016).

National Kidney Foundation. 30 East 33rd St., New York, NY 10016. Toll-free: 800-622-9010. Website: https://www.kidney.org (accessed April 4, 2016).

Office of Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 200 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20201. Toll-free: 800-994-9662. Website: http://www.womenshealth.gov (accessed April 4, 2016).

* bacteria (bak-TEER-ee-a) are single-celled microorganisms that typically reproduce by dividing. Some, but not all, types of bacteria can cause disease in humans.

* virus (VY-rus) is a tiny infectious agent that can cause infectious diseases.

* fungus (FUN-gus) is a microorganism that can grow in or on the body, causing infections of the internal organs or of the skin, hair, and nails. Plural form is fungi (FUNG-eye).

* parasites (PAIR-uh-sites) are organisms such as protozoa (one-celled animals), worms, or insects that must live on or inside a human or other organism to survive.

* herpes simplex (HER-peez SIMplex) is a virus that can cause infections of the skin, mouth, genitals, and other parts of the body.

* vaginal diaphragm (DIE-a-fram) is a method of birth control that helps prevent sperm from entering the uterus. The diaphragm consists of a flexible rubber or silicone cup that covers the cervix.

* spermicide is a medication used to kill sperm used as a form of birth control.

* prostatitis (prah-sta-TIE-tis) is inflammation of the prostate gland.

* urethritis (yur-ee-THRY-tis) is inflammation of the urethra, the tube that transports urine from the bladder to outside the body.

* diabetes (dye-uh-BEE-teez) is a condition in which the body's pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin it makes effectively, resulting in increased levels of sugar in the blood.

* incontinence (in-KON-ti-nens) is loss of control of urination or bowel movement.

* immune system (im-YOON) is a system of organs and special cells that helps protect the body against disease-causing germs.

* culture (KUL-chur) is a test in which a sample of fluid or tissue from the body is placed in a dish containing material that supports the growth of certain organisms.

* ultrasound is a diagnostic test in which sound waves passing through the body create images on a computer screen. Also called a sonogram.

* computed tomography (komPYOO-ted toe-MAH-gruh-fee), or CT, is a technique in which a machine takes many x-rays of the body to create a threedimensional picture. Formerly called computerized axial tomography (CAT).

* magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses magnetic waves, instead of x-rays, to scan the body and produce detailed pictures of the body's structure.

* antibiotic (an-tie-by-AH-tik) is a drug that kills or slows the growth of bacteria.

* douche (DOOSH) is water or a medicated liquid that is squirted into a body cavity to clean it or to treat a localized condition.

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.