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Defining Urinary Tract Infection

What is a Urianry Tract Infection

Image of Bladder
3D Illustration of Human Urinary System Bladder Anatomy

Defining Urinary Tract Infection , or UTI, is an infection that occurs anywhere along your urinary system, including the kidney, ureter, bladder, or urethra. UTI’s are divided into upper and lower urinary tract infections, but most commonly UTI’s occur in the lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra). This is because the urethra is the first point of entry into the body, which is where bacteria are frequently introduced into the body. If left untreated, the infection will ascend the urethra into the bladder causing acute cystitis. Acute cystitis is defined as sudden (“acute”) bladder (“cyst-“) infection (“-itis”). Sometimes, the infection can ascend all the way up to the kidney, causing acute pyelonephritis.


The most common cause of a Urinary Tract Infection is Escherichia coli. Other less common causes include Chlamydia, Pseudomonas and Klebsiella.

Risk Factors:

  • Female Gender: Urinary tract infections are more common in women due to the short length of the urethra and the close proximity of the female urethra to the anus.
  • Increased age
  • Hormonal changes such as menopause, pregnancy, and certain oral contraceptives.
  • Poor hygiene
  • Sexual intercourse – termed “honeymoon cystitis”
  • Daibetes
  • Having a urinary catheter
  • Urinary incontinence or impaired bladder emptying
  • Kidney stones
  • Prostate enlargement
  • Anatomical Anomalies (vesicoureteral reflux)


A Urinary Tract Infection classically presents as suprapubic pain, dysuria (painful urination), urinary frequency, and urinary urgency. Suprapubic pain is pain felt in the central lower part of the abdomen, in between the belly button (umbilicus) and the pubic bone. Patients will classically describe a strong, sudden urge to urinate followed by pain while actually urinating.

Symptoms of Spreading Infection:

blood in urine (hematuria) – indicative of acute cystitis (bladder infection) back pain (termed “costovertebral tenderness”), nausea, vomiting, and fever – indicitive of kidney infection (pyelonephritis)

Diagnosis a Urianry Tact Infection:

Quantitative urine culture is the gold standard test to diagnose a UTI.

UTI Treatment:

For most UTI’s, treatment involves a 3-5 day course of oral antibiotics.


Maintaining proper personal hygiene habits and sanitation can lower the risk of getting a UTI. Some preventative measures include:

  • Drink water and stay hydrated. Urinate frequently.
  • Avoid substances that irritate the bladder (alcohol and caffeine)
  • Urinate after sexual intercourse
  • Always wipe from front to back
  • Keep the area clean
  • Shower instead of taking a bath
  • Avoid using oils or perfume products in that area
  • Use pads instead of tampons
  • Avoid using a diaphragm or spermicide for birth control.
  • Avoid wearing tight underwear.
Updated on February 7, 2019

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