A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a general name for a group of infections that occur anywhere in the urinary tract. UTIs are the second most common type of infection in the body, and women are particularly prone to them. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one in five women will develop a UTI in her lifetime.

The name of the specific UTI is often determined by what part of the urinary tract is infected:

  • kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
  • bladder infection (cystisis)
  • urethra infection (urethritis)

Risk Factors

Most of the time, your body is well-equipped to fight off any bacteria that enters the urethra or bladder. However, some conditions can decrease your ability to get rid of the bacteria and thereby increase your risk for UTIs. For example, those with an abnormality of the urinary tract—such as a kidney stone—are at an increased risk of a UTI. Older women (who have gone through menopause) and women who are sexually active have a higher risk of infection.

Other risk factors include:

  • insertion of a catheter
  • diabetes
  • diaphragm contraception

Symptoms and Treatment

Most people with a UTI experience at least one or more symptoms of the condition. These can include a frequent urge to urinate and a burning feeling in the bladder or urethra during urination. Many feel pain even without urinating, and it's common for a person with a UTI to only pass a small amount of urine despite the urge to urinate.

Other symptoms include:

  • pressure above the pubic bone (women)
  • fullness in the rectum (men)
  • cloudy urine
  • blood in urine

It's important to see your doctor as soon as symptoms occur. UTIs can be treated with antibiotics such as:

  • amoxicillin (Amoxil, Trimox, Wymox)
  • ampicillin (Omnipen, Polycillin, Principen, Totacillin)
  • ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
  • levofloxacin (Levaquin)
  • nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Furadantin)
  • trimethoprim (Trimpex),
  • trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, Cotrim),

Most of the time, symptoms clear up after a few days of treatment, but make sure to take the full course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor to make sure the infection does not return.

Prevention

There are a number of preventive measures that can help to avoid a UTI. Doctors recommend drinking plenty of water and urinating when you feel the urge.

Other preventative steps include:

  • Wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria around the anus from entering the vagina or urethra
  • Take showers instead of baths
  • Cleanse the genital area before and after sexual activity
  • Avoid using feminine hygiene sprays and scented douches

Visit the UTI Learning Center for more information.