Learn About Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

What is the definition of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection of the urinary tract. The infection can occur at different points in the urinary tract, including the:

  • Bladder -- An infection in the bladder is also called cystitis or a bladder infection.
  • Kidneys -- An infection of one or both kidneys is called pyelonephritis or a kidney infection.
  • Ureters -- The tubes that take urine from each kidney to the bladder are rarely the only site of infection.
  • Urethra -- An infection of the tube that empties urine from the bladder to the outside is called urethritis.
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What are the alternative names for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Bladder infection - adults; UTI - adults; Cystitis - bacterial - adults; Pyelonephritis - adults; Kidney infection - adults

What are the causes of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Most UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the urethra and then the bladder. The infection most commonly develops in the bladder, but can spread to the kidneys. Most of the time, your body can get rid of these bacteria. However, certain conditions increase the risk for having UTIs.

Women tend to get them more often because their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus than in men. Because of this, women are more likely to get an infection after sexual activity or when using a diaphragm for birth control. Menopause also increases the risk for a UTI.

The following also increase your chances of developing a UTI:

  • Diabetes
  • Advanced age and conditions that affect personal care habits (such as Alzheimer disease and delirium)
  • Problems emptying the bladder completely
  • Having a urinary catheter
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Enlarged prostate, narrowed urethra, or anything that blocks the flow of urine
  • Kidney stones
  • Staying still (immobile) for a long period of time (for example, while you are recovering from a hip fracture)
  • Pregnancy
  • Surgery or other procedure involving the urinary tract
What are the symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

The symptoms of a bladder infection include:

  • Cloudy or bloody urine, which may have a foul or strong odor
  • Low grade fever in some people
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Pressure or cramping in the lower abdomen or back
  • Strong need to urinate often, even right after the bladder has been emptied

If the infection spreads to your kidneys, symptoms may include:

  • Chills and shaking or night sweats
  • Fatigue and a general ill feeling
  • Fever above 101°F (38.3°C)
  • Pain in the side, back, or groin
  • Flushed, warm, or reddened skin
  • Mental changes or confusion (in older people, these symptoms often are the only signs of a UTI)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Very bad abdominal pain (sometimes)
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What are the current treatments for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Your health care provider must first decide if the infection is just in the bladder, or if it has spread to the kidneys and how severe it is.

MILD BLADDER AND KIDNEY INFECTIONS

  • Most of the time, you will need to take an antibiotic to prevent the infection from spreading to the kidneys.
  • For a simple bladder infection, you will take antibiotics for 3 days (women) or 7 to 14 days (men).
  • If you are pregnant or have diabetes, or have a mild kidney infection, you will most often take antibiotics for 7 to 14 days.
  • Finish all of the antibiotics, even if you feel better. If you do not finish the whole dose of medicine, the infection may return and be harder to treat later.
  • Always drink plenty of water when you have a bladder or kidney infection.
  • Tell your provider if you might be pregnant before taking these drugs.

RECURRENT BLADDER INFECTIONS

Some women have repeated bladder infections. Your provider may suggest that you:

  • Take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual contact to prevent an infection.
  • Have a 3-day course of antibiotics at home to use if you develop an infection.
  • Take a single, daily dose of an antibiotic to prevent infections.

MORE SEVERE KIDNEY INFECTIONS

You may need to go into the hospital if you are very sick and cannot take medicines by mouth or drink enough fluids. You may also be admitted to the hospital if you:

  • Are an older adult
  • Have kidney stones or changes in the anatomy of your urinary tract
  • Have recently had urinary tract surgery
  • Have cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, or other medical problems
  • Are pregnant and have a fever or are otherwise ill

At the hospital, you will receive fluids and antibiotics through a vein.

Some people have UTIs that do not go away with treatment or keep coming back. These are called chronic UTIs. If you have a chronic UTI, you may need stronger antibiotics or to take medicine for a longer time.

You may need surgery if the infection is caused by a problem with the structure of the urinary tract.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Most UTIs can be cured. Bladder infection symptoms most often go away within 24 to 48 hours after treatment begins. If you have a kidney infection, it may take 1 week or longer for symptoms to go away.

What are the possible complications of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Complications may include:

  • Life-threatening blood infection (sepsis) -- The risk is greater among the young, very old adults, and people whose bodies cannot fight infections (for example, due to HIV or cancer chemotherapy).
  • Kidney damage or scarring.
  • Kidney infection.
When should I contact a medical professional for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Contact your provider if you have symptoms of a UTI. Call right away if you have signs of a possible kidney infection, such as:

  • Back or side pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

Also call if UTI symptoms come back shortly after you have been treated with antibiotics.

How do I prevent Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Diet and lifestyle changes may help prevent some UTIs. After menopause, a woman may use estrogen cream around the vagina to reduce infections.

Prevention of cystitis
Urinary tract infection - adults
Bladder catheterization - female
Bladder catheterization - male
Female urinary tract
Male urinary tract
What are the latest Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Clinical Trials?
Temocillin Pharmacokinetics in Paediatrics
Summary: Temocillin (6-methoxy-ticarcillin) is a beta-lactam antibiotic with exceptional resistance to most beta-lactamases. In this context, it is now increasingly used as carbapenem-sparing antibiotic in patients with suspected infection by Enterobactreriaceae suspected to produce extended-spectrum beta-lactamases. Little is known about dosing and elimination of temocillin in children. While available li...
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Randomized Phase II Study of Antibiotic Prophylaxis With Fosfomycin vs Amikacin in Transurethral Resection of Bladder
Summary: Antimicrobial prophylaxis in urological procedures is aimed to reduce the risk of local and systemic postoperative infections such as urinary tract infection or surgical site infection. It should be recommended only when the potential benefit exceeds the anticipated risks and costs. However, a wide variation in the use of periprocedural prophylactic antibiotics has been demonstrated, which frequen...
What are the Latest Advances for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
A Meta-Analysis on Clinical Outcomes of Ceftolozane versus Piperacillin in Combination with Tazobactam in Patients with Complicated Urinary Tract Infections.
Summary: A Meta-Analysis on Clinical Outcomes of Ceftolozane versus Piperacillin in Combination with Tazobactam in Patients with Complicated Urinary Tract Infections.
Emphysematous Pyelonephritis in Type 2 Diabetes - Clinical Profile and Management.
Summary: Emphysematous Pyelonephritis in Type 2 Diabetes - Clinical Profile and Management.
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Radiation-induced hemorrhagic cystitis-possible treatment options!
Summary: Radiation-induced hemorrhagic cystitis-possible treatment options!
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: August 13, 2020
Published By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Cooper KL, Badalato GM, Rutman MP. Infections of the urinary tract. In: Partin AW, Dmochowski RR, Kavoussi LR, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh-Wein Urology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 55.

Nicolle LE, Drekonja D. Approach to the patient with urinary tract infection. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 268.

Sobel JD, Brown P. Urinary tract infections. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 72.