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Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection (UTI) happens when any part of your urinary system becomes infected.

This includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Urinary tract infections usually occur when bacteria enter the urine or urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply inside the bladder. Although the urinary system is designed to keep such microscopic invaders out, these defenses can fail. When that happens, bacteria can take over and grow into a full-blown infection inside of the urinary tract. A majority of these infections involve the lower urinary tract, the bladder and the urethra. Women are at greater risk than men for developing a UTI. Infection limited to your bladder can be painful and annoying.

Causes & Symptoms

A simple UTI (also referred to as acute cystitis or bladder infection) occurs more frequently in women than in men due to the short distance from the urethra to the anus and the urethral opening leading to the bladder. This type of urinary tract infection is typically caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacteria frequently found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Sexual intercourse may lead to cystitis, but you can still develop cystitis even if you are not sexually active. The symptoms that are most common include frequency (going all the time), urgency (the need to go), urine that appears cloudy, burning, urine with a strong or foul odor, urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored which is a sign of blood in the urine, rectal pain, in men, pelvic pain, in women.


An infection of the urethra is known as urethritis. A UTI of this type can happen when GI bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra. Additionally, because the female urethra is close to the vagina, urethritis can be caused by sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes.

Pyelonephritis is a type of UTI affecting one or both kidneys.  It is caused by a bacterium or virus infecting the kidneys. Although many different types of bacteria and viruses can cause pyelonephritis, the E. coli bacterium is often the cause. Viruses and bacteria can maneuver to the kidneys from the bladder or can move through the bloodstream from other parts of the body. Pyelonephritis symptoms can include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, side, back, groin pain, and frequent or painful urination. Pyelonephritis may require hospitalization.

To confirm the diagnosis of any urinary tract infection (UTI), a urinalysis will be done. A urine culture can determine what type of bacteria is responsible for the infection and guide treatment by antibiotics. In most cases, simple UTI's will resolve with 3-5 days of antibiotics.

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