Urinary Tract Infection

Urine is a waste product produced by your kidneys, composed of a mix of fluids, salts, and other wastes, that are free of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when microorganisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the opening of the urethra and begin to multiply. Most infections arise from one type of bacteria, Escherichia coli (E. coli), which normally live in the digestive tract. In most cases, bacteria first begin growing in the urethra and often move on to the bladder, causing a bladder infection (cystitis). If the infection is not treated promptly, bacteria may then go up the ureters to infect the kidneys (pyelonephritis). Microorganisms called chlamydia and mycoplasma may also cause UTIs in both women and men, but these infections tend to remain limited to the urethra and reproductive system. Unlike E. coli, chlamydia and mycoplasma may be sexually transmitted, and infections require treatment of both partners.

Frequently Asked Questions
Who is at risk of getting a UTI?

Some people are very prone to getting UTIs compared to others, due to abnormalities in their urinary tract, which obstruct the flow of urine (i.e. setting the stage for an infection). Women are especially prone to getting UTIs more so than men, because of their relatively short urethra. Having a short urethra enables bacteria to invade the bladder particularly bacteria from the anus and vagina. Many women often develop UTIs after sexual intercourse, especially when using a diaphragm or condom as their birth control method. There is a proven incidence of increased UTIs, secondary to increased E. coli bacteria growth in the vagina, when women use diaphragms or condoms.

What should I look for?

Not everyone who is diagnosed with a UTI complains of symptoms, although most women with a UTI complain of some symptoms. Early treatment of UTIs may prevent more serious infections and complications in the future. If you experience any of these symptoms, please see your health care provider promptly.

  • Frequent urge to urinate (getting up at night to urinate)
  • Pain/discomfort with urination
  • Burning feeling in the area of the bladder or urethra during urination
  • Persistently Milky/cloudy looking urine-it may even be blood tinged
  • Pressure in the pubic bone region
  • Fever
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Pain in the back, side, or below the ribs (more common symptoms with kidney infections)
How is a UTI diagnosed and treated?

Your health care provider will ask you for a urine sample, which he/she will test for pus and bacteria. Although the conclusive results are not immediate, your health care provider may begin treatment with an antibiotic. When the final bacterial results are determined he/she may change your antibiotic to a more specific one.

How can I avoid getting a UTI?

Many women suffer from frequent UTIs and need to take steps toward preventing infections in the future. Some preventive actions women can take to help ward off UTIs are as follows

  • Drink plenty of water every day
  • Drinking large amounts of cranberry juice or taking a vitamin C supplement, has been proven to inhibit the growth of some bacteria-by acidifying the urine
  • Urinate when you feel the urge—don't resist it
  • Always wipe front to back, as to not introduce vagina and anus bacteria into the urethra
  • Take showers instead of baths, especially bubble baths
  • Cleanse the genitalia area before and after sexual intercourse
  • Always urinate soon (within an hour) after sexual intercourse
How can I get more information?

Urinary Tract Infection

If you have any questions regarding urinary tract infections or want more information, please contact University Health Service Women's Clinic 216.368.2453.