The urinary tract consists of organs that make, store, and get rid of urine: kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Kidneys make urine. Urine then flows in tubes called ureters to the bladder. From the bladder, urine leaves the body through the urethra. Urinary tract infections (UTls) are bacterial infections in any part of this tract.
The most common cause of a UTI is a bacterium named Escherichia coli, which is found in the intestines. Bacteria on the skin or near the anus can get into the urinary tract and move up.
Bacteria also get into the tract through catheters (tubes) used during medical treatment, when stones or congenital abnormalities block the tract, or after vigorous sex. UTls can also occur when another infection travels to the kidneys.
UTls aren't usually contagious, but sex can be painful during an infection and should be avoided. Women have a shorter urethra than men, so they get UTls more often.
- Feeling the need to urinate often.
- Painful urination.
- Urinating only small amounts of urine.
- No control of the urine flow.
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine.
- Blood or pus in urine.
- If the kidneys are infected, fever and back pain may occur.
Your healthcare provider may want to test the urine (urinalysis and urine culture). A clean-catch urine sample is needed. To get this sample, special cleaning methods are used, and urination is started, stopped, and started again. If you have recurrent or persistent infections, your healthcare provider may order additional tests to determine if your urinary tract is normal.
- Antibiotics are usually needed for 3 to 10 days.
- Fluid intake should be increased to help flush the urinary tract.
- Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided.
- Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine such as phenazopyridine to relieve pain when urinating. This drug will turn urine orange.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers (acetaminophen, ibuprofen) may also help.
- Sitz baths may ease discomfort.
- Rest until fever and pain are gone.
- No special diet is needed, but drinking juices (cranberry or prune juice) to make urine more acidic may help, as can taking vitamin C; however, their effectiveness is unknown and unproven.
- If you have frequent UTls, your healthcare provider may order additional tests, such as sonogram of kidneys and bladder. If a structural problem is found, surgical correction may be necessary.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. Drinking water and cranberry juice may help the treatment of UTls.
- Use good hygiene. Women should wipe from front to back after using the toilet. Avoid douches and sprays (these increase chances of getting UTls). Showers may be better than baths. Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight pants.
- Lower the risk of UTls. Women can urinate just before and just after sex. Avoid using a diaphragm or spermicide.
- Try to urinate often and empty your bladder completely.
- Tell your healthcare provider if you take birth control pills. Some antibiotics interfere with birth control pills.
- Take antibiotics until they’re gone. If you get UTls often, your healthcare provider may give you antibiotics to prevent them.
- Call your healthcare provider if your fever continues after 48 hours of antibiotic therapy or symptoms return after you finish your antibiotics.
- Do not skip doses or stop taking antibiotics before they’re gone.
- Avoid having sex until fever and symptoms stop.
- Avoid holding your urine for long periods.
- Do not drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider.