Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary tract infections (UTI) are common in women, and range from uncomfortable, to painful, to dangerous. It’s important for women to learn the signs of a UTI, and know what they can do to help prevent them.
Your urinary tract makes and stores urine and removes it from your body.   Any of the parts of the urinary tract, urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys, may be involved in a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Normally, your urinary tract is very good at keeping out bacteria that cause infections, because the act of urination flushes them from your system. But sometimes bacteria do find their way into your urinary tract and are able to multiply. The bacteria usually come from fecal matter in the digestive tract. 
It is possible to have a UTI without realizing it, but most people with an infection in the urethra or bladder have one or more of the following symptoms:
  • pain or stinging when you urinate
  • an urge to pass urine often, but only a small amount of urine comes out
  • pressure in your lower belly
  • urine that smells bad or looks cloudy. If your urine is bloody, tell a doctor right away.
  • fever
  • feeling tired or shaky
If an infection has spread to your upper urinary tract (to the urethras or kidneys) you may also have:
  • nausea or vomiting
  • pain in the backside of your waist

Who is likely to get a UTI?

Women are more susceptible than men to UTI, perhaps because a woman’s urethra - the tube that comes from the bladder and opens to the body - is much shorter than a man’s.
Some medical conditions, such as kidney stones or diabetes, also make it easier to get a UTI.
You need to see your doctor to find out for certain if you have a UTI. To test a sample of your urine, the doctor or nurse will give you a clean plastic cup to void into. Be sure to follow their instructions carefully so that you provide a good sample for them to test.
It’s important to have a UTI treated as soon as possible, because the infection can spread to other parts of your body otherwise, making you much sicker.
A UTI is treated with antibiotics, medicines that kill the bacteria causing your infection. Many people feel better in a few days, but it is very important that you take all of your medicine, for as long as it was prescribed for, because if you stop taking it too soon the bacteria can return and make the infection even worse.
Once you are diagnosed, you may also take the drug phenazopyridine hydrochloride (brand name AZO) for urinary tract pain. Although it is available over the counter, it is important to get a prescription for antibiotics from your doctor, because AZO will not cure the infection.
  • urinate as soon as you feel the need
  • drink water and urinate before and after sex (drinking a lot of fluids each day is a good idea for many health reasons
  • always wipe from front to back when using the toilet
  • clean your vagina and anus every day in a shower
  • don't use douches, sprays or other similar products
  • wear cotton underpants and loose clothing, which reduces the growth of bacteria
  • drink cranberry juice regularly (studies have shown that a substance in cranberry juice helps keep bacteria from multiplying in the urinary tract)
Some women get UTIs more than once, even when the above guidelines are followed. If you seem prone to UTIs, talk to your doctor about your treatment options.   There are home tests for UTI which can help you catch the infection earlier, and your doctor might give you a supply of antibiotics to have on hand. Find out what works for you.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Pamphlet on UTI
The National Women's Health Information Center
Frequently Asked Questions about UTI
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