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A urinary tract infection (UTI) can occur in any part of the urinary system, which includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. UTIs most often occur when bacteria (usually Escherichia coli, or E. coli) enter the lower urinary tract via the urethra. From there, the bacteria multiplies rapidly, leading to infection of the immune system.
While anyone can get a UTI, they are more common in women. More than half of women will get a UTI at some point, in part because their urethras are shorter than men’s, providing an easier pathway for bacteria.
Most UTI infections respond to antibiotics. The type of UTI you have will determine the types of antibiotics you should receive. If untreated, urinary tract infections can lead to serious complications, such as cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), or acute pyelonephritis (inflammation of the kidney).
UTIs can affect the kidneys, bladder, or urethra. Depending on which part of the urinary tract is affected, you may have more specific UTI symptoms. In general, symptoms of a UTI can include:
Pain or burning when urinating
Persistent urge to urinate/urgent urination
Lower abdominal or back discomfort
Bloody or strange-smelling urine
Pain or discomfort in the lower belly, abdomen, or lower back
Pelvic pain or pressure
Fever, chills, nausea, or fatigue
UTIs usually occur when bacteria enter the urethra and move into the bladder. Once in the bladder, bacteria can multiply and cause an infection.
Risk factors for developing a UTI include blockages in the urinary tract from an enlarged prostate or kidney stones, using a catheter, or having a suppressed immune system. Risk factors specific to women include anatomical differences (having a shorter urethra than men), sexual activity, using certain types of birth control, and having lower estrogen levels due to menopause.
Bladder infections can be irritating, causing a burning sensation during urination, but they are usually very treatable. If a UTI spreads to the kidneys, it can cause serious health problems. Schedule an online consultation with one of our healthcare professionals right away if you have signs of a UTI that is affecting your kidneys, such as back pain or side pain.
Our online doctors are usually able to make a diagnosis and prescribe antibiotics for UTI based on your symptoms. However, you may need certain lab tests, procedures, or imaging tests to confirm a UTI diagnosis or rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as a sexually transmitted infection. These tests can include:
Urinalysis and culture – The presence of bacteria in your urine can indicate a bacterial infection. A culture tells your doctor which type of bacteria are causing the bladder or urethra infection.
Imaging – Your doctor may recommend an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to identify structural problems in the urinary tract that are causing recurrent UTIs.
Cystoscopy – This procedure uses a long, thin tube with a lens to see inside your urethra and bladder.
Our licensed clinicians will let you know if additional tests/procedures are needed to make a diagnosis, such as a test for STI. We partner with LabCorp for in-person lab tests.
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Get effective treatment for a UTI without an in-person doctor’s visit. Our online healthcare providers can prescribe medications to help you get relief from your UTI. Medications we prescribe include:
After treatment, it is important to have regular appointments with your healthcare provider as well as performing self-monitoring to ensure there are no ongoing signs or symptoms of infection, such as painful urination or discharge.
Knowing what causes a UTI can help you prevent UTIs from occurring. You can help prevent UTIs by:
Drinking plenty of water
Wiping from front to back
Urinating right after having sex
Home remedies, such as OTC concentrated cranberry supplements
Avoiding irritating feminine hygiene products (such as scented tampons and douches)
Avoiding certain birth control methods (including diaphragms, spermicides, and unlubricated condoms)
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