What is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Urinary tract infections (UTI's) are caused by foreign bacteria in the urinary tract (kidneys, bladder, ureters, urethra, and, in men, prostate). This illness is most common in women and older people.


UTI's are caused when bacteria travel into the urinary tract from the digestive system or (for women) the vagina. Shape of a person's organs, genetic tendencies and catheter use can all contribute to the development of UTI's. Additionally, sexual activity and the use of certain contraceptive methods can lead to urinary tract infections. Though sex itself doesn't cause UTI's, it does promote the movement of bacteria from the penis, vagina, or anus to the urethra.

How is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) diagnosed?

There are a variety of tests your physician can use to determine the presence of a UTI.

  • Urine Sample. Microscopically checked for bacteria.
  • Imagery. X-Ray, ultrasound and CT Scan helps the doctor to view your organs.
  • Cytoscope. Inserted into the urethra to view the lower portion of the urinary tract from the inside.

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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Symptoms usually appear 1 week after infection.

There are several signs of UTI and if you experience them, you should see your doctor:

  • Burning pain while urinating
  • Chills and fever
  • Cloudy, bloody or strange smelling urine
  • Pain in the lower back or abdomen
  • Urge to urinate often, even though little urine may be produced

What Are the Complications and Risks of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

If left untreated, UTI's can cause damage to the kidneys, decreasing their effectiveness at cleaning the blood.

Partners and Re-infection

While re-infection isn't common, it also isn't rare. Roughly 20% of women who have a UTI will have another one sometime in the future.

How is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Treated?

Bacterial UTI's are treated with antibiotics. The specific antibiotic chosen will depend largely on the bacteria present, and treatment usually runs somewhere between three and fourteen days (though severe infections may be treated for longer periods of time).

Recovery Time

Specific recovery time will vary based on the treatment used and should be discussed with your doctor. If you still have symptoms after the timeframe given by your doctor, you should return for a re-check.

Sexual Activity

Care should be taken with sexual activity as it is known to promote UTI's. Additionally, use of spermicidal gels increase the risk of developing a urinary tract infection. Urinating after sex, or gently cleaning the area around the urethra can help to reduce the risk of a sexually related UTI.

How is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Prevented?

While it does nothing to treat an infection, there is reason to believe that drinking cranberry juice can reduce the risk of developing a urinary tract infection. There is also a link between reduced risk of contracting a UTI and fully emptying your bladder when you urinate, as well as urinating shortly after sex. If you already have an infection, be sure to finish all your medication, as stopping early can lead to re-infection. If your UTI's are the result of an anatomic problem, surgery to correct the issue may be recommended.

Mark Riegel, MD

Quick Snapshot

Can it be cured?

Yes. Urinary tract infections are easily treated with antibiotics.

Type of Infection

Bacterial. UTI's are caused by a variety of bacteria.

How is it treated?

Antibiotics. Various antibiotics are used depending on the offending bacterium.

Recovery Time

Variable. Specific time for recovery is dependent on the medication prescribed.

Can I have sex?

No. Sex is not recommended as it can promote movement of bacteria.

Can I get re-infected?

Yes. There is roughly a 20% probability of re-infection.

Do I Have a UTI?

Find out whether or not you have a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and what STD test is recommended using our anonymous symptom checker. Get your personalized recommendations now!

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptom Checker

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