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St. Maarten Medical Center
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system — your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract — the bladder and the urethra.
Women are at greater risk of developing a UTI than are men. Infection limited to your bladder can be painful and annoying. However, serious consequences can occur if a UTI spreads to your kidneys.
Doctors typically treat urinary tract infections with antibiotics. But you can take steps to reduce your chances of getting a UTI in the first place.
Urinary tract infections don't always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do they may include:
UTIs may be overlooked or mistaken for other conditions in older adults.
Each type of UTI may result in more-specific signs and symptoms, depending on which part of your urinary tract is infected.
Contact your doctor if you have signs and symptoms of a UTI.
Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and
begin to multiply in the bladder. Although the urinary system is designed to keep out such microscopic
invaders, these defenses sometimes fail. When that happens, bacteria may take hold and grow into a
full-blown infection in the urinary tract.
The most common UTIs occur mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose urinary tract infections include:
Antibiotics usually are the first line treatment for urinary tract infections. Which drugs are prescribed
and for how long depend on your health condition and the type of bacteria found in your urine.
For an uncomplicated UTI that occurs when you're otherwise healthy, your doctor may recommend a
course of antibiotics for one to three days. Your doctor may also prescribe a pain medication
(analgesic) that numbs your bladder and urethra to relieve burning while urinating, but pain usually is
relieved soon after starting an antibiotic.
If you have frequent UTIs, your doctor may make certain treatment recommendations, such as:
For a severe UTI, you may need treatment with intravenous antibiotics in a hospital.
Urinary tract infections are common in women, and many women experience more than one infection during their lifetimes. Risk factors specific to women for UTIs include:
Other risk factors for UTIs include:
When treated promptly and properly, lower urinary tract infections rarely
lead to complications. But left untreated, a urinary tract infection can have serious consequences.
Complications of a UTI may include:
You can take these steps to reduce your risk of urinary tract infections:
Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Drinking water helps dilute your urine and ensures that you'll urinate more frequently — allowing bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract before an infection can begin.
Drink cranberry juice. Although studies are not conclusive that cranberry juice prevents UTIs, it is likely not harmful.
Wipe from front to back. Doing so after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
Empty your bladder soon after intercourse. Also, drink a full glass of water to help flush bacteria.
Avoid potentially irritating feminine products. Using deodorant sprays or other feminine products, such as douches and powders, in the genital area can irritate the urethra.
Change your birth control method. Diaphragms, or lubricated spermicidetreated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth.