Urinary Tract Infection In Women

What is a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by bacteria that get inside your urinary tract. Most bacteria that enter your urinary tract are expelled when you urinate. If the bacteria stay in your urinary tract, you may get an infection. Your urinary tract includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in your kidneys, and it flows from the ureters to the bladder. Urine leaves the bladder through the urethra. A UTI is more common in your lower urinary tract, which includes your bladder and urethra.


What increases my risk for a UTI?

  • Medical conditions: Medical conditions, such as diabetes, may increase your risk for a UTI. Obesity may also increase your risk. Ask your caregiver for more information about health problems that can increase your risk for a UTI.

  • Past UTI: Your risk of getting another infection increases if you have had a UTI before.

  • Pregnancy: When you are pregnant, changes in your body may increase your risk for a UTI. Your risk also increases with each pregnancy.

  • Menopause: After menopause, body changes and decreased hormone levels may increase your risk for a UTI.

  • Sexual intercourse: Recent or frequent sexual intercourse may increase your risk for a UTI. If your sex partner has an infection, you are more likely to get an infection. Use of a diaphragm or spermicide also increases your risk.

  • Urinary tract problems: Your risk for a UTI is increased if you cannot empty your bladder completely. Your risk for a UTI is also higher if you were born with urinary tract problems, such as a narrow urinary tract. Use of a catheter (thin tube) to urinate may cause bacteria to enter your urethra and bladder. Kidney stones or growths in your urinary tract also increase your risk for a UTI.

What are the signs and symptoms of a UTI?

  • Urinating more often or waking from sleep to urinate

  • Pain or burning when you urinate

  • Pain or pressure in your lower abdomen

  • Urine that smells bad

  • Blood in your urine

  • Leaking urine

How is a UTI diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your signs and symptoms. He may press on your stomach, sides, and back to check if you feel pain. You may also need the following tests:

  • Urine test: A sample of your urine is collected and sent to a lab for tests to learn what germ is causing your infection. You may be able to give a urine sample by urinating into a cup.

  • Imaging tests: You may need imaging tests if your UTI does not get better or if you get another UTI. Imaging tests are pictures of your urinary tract that may show if your infection is in your kidneys. Imaging tests may also show if you have damage or other problems in your urinary tract. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is a UTI treated?

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.

  • Urinary tract medicines: These decrease pain and burning when you urinate. They will also help decrease the feeling that you need to urinate often. These medicines will make your urine orange or red.
Antibiotics will be given to help kill the germs causing your infection. Take the antibiotic medicine as directed.

What are the risks of a UTI?

Even after you take medicine to treat your UTI, your infection may come back. Without treatment, your infection and symptoms may get worse. The bacteria may spread to your kidneys and cause pyelonephritis. This can be a very serious condition, and you may need treatment in the hospital. The infection can spread to your blood, which can be life-threatening.

How can I prevent a UTI?

  • Urinate when you feel the urge: Do not hold your urine. Urinate as soon as you feel you have to.

  • Drink plenty of liquids: This may help you urinate more often. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day and which liquids are right for you.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have white or yellow discharge from your vagina.

  • You do not feel better after 2 days of taking antibiotics.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You are urinating very little or not at all.

  • You are vomiting.

  • You have a high fever with shaking chills.

  • You have side or back pain that gets worse.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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