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Urinary tract infections

Early treatment can prevent bigger problems later

Urinary tract infections can occur in several different locations of the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra.

Most urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria that enter the urethra and then the bladder. Infections most commonly develop in the bladder, but can spread to the kidneys. Women tend to get UTIs more often because their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus than in men. Menopause also increases the risk of UTI.

Other risk factors:

  • Diabetes
  • Advanced age and conditions that affect personal care habits
  • 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 long periods of time
  • Pregnancy
  • Surgery or other procedures involving the urinary tract

The symptoms of a bladder infection include:

  • Cloudy or bloody urine, which may have a foul or strong odor
  • Low 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 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pain in the side, back, or groin
  • Flushed, warm, or reddened skin
  • Mental changes or confusion (in the elderly, these symptoms often are the only signs of a UTI)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Very bad abdominal pain (sometimes)

Diagnosis

A urine sample usually can be used to diagnose a urinary tract infection. Other tests, such as a CT scan, may also be needed to rule out other problems in your urinary system.

Treatment

For mild bladder and kidney infections, an antibiotic is prescribed to keep the infection from spreading to the kidneys. Drinking plenty of water also can help the infection subside.

In the case of more severe kidney infections, hospitalization may occur. Hospitalization also may be required if you:

  • Are elderly
  • 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

Source: National Institutes of Health