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Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary Tract Infection

Alternate Names

  • cystitis
  • bladder infection
  • UTI
  • Female pelvic organs


A urinary tract infection, abbreviated as UTI, is an infection of the bladder. The bladder holds urine produced by the kidneys.

What is going on in the body?

The bladder and the urine it holds are normally free from bacteria and other organisms. A urinary tract infection occurs when organisms are introduced into the bladder. Bacteria from the skin or from the vagina may enter through the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
Organisms can also enter the bladder on urinary catheters. Bacteria in the bladder are usually flushed out when the person urinates. If bacteria multiply faster than they can be removed, a UTI results. UTIs are more common in women than in men because women have a shorter urethra which allows easier access for bacteria. The entrance of bacteria is often precipitated by sexual intercourse.


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The most common cause of a UTI is a bacteria calledThese bacteria are normally present in the bowel and feces. They can be introduced into the bladder by sexual activity.
Some of the risk factors for developing a UTI:
  • advanced age
  • bladder abnormalities
  • blockage of the urethra by a tumor or enlarged prostate
  • diabetes
  • impaired bladder function
  • inadequate fluid intake
  • objects inserted into the bladder, such as a urinary catheter
  • poor hygiene
  • pregnancy


What can be done to prevent the condition?

Not all UTIs can be prevented. The following steps can lower a person's risk for UTI:
  • Always empty the bladder completely.
  • Always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement.
  • Avoid chemicals that may irritate the urethra, such as strong soaps.
  • Avoid going for long periods without emptying the bladder.
  • Avoid sitting in baths or hot tubs for long periods of time.
  • Empty the bladder after sexual intercourse.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to flush out the bladder.


How is the condition diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a UTI begins with a medical history and physical exam. The exam may include a pelvic exam in women and a rectal exam in men. The healthcare professional may order the following tests:
  • urethral cultures in men to see if the prostate is infected
  • urinalysis to look for protein or blood in the urine
  • urine culture to see what type of bacteria is involved
If infections occur repeatedly, more tests may be done. An intravenous pyelogram is an X-ray of the urinary tract, taken after a contrast agent is injected into the body. A cystoscopy allows the examiner to use a scope to look into the bladder.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Once treatment has begun, the symptoms of UTI disappear within 24 hours if the organism is sensitive to the antibiotic used. Antibiotics must be taken for the full course, however. If the UTI is not successfully treated, there may be kidney damage. Bacteria can spread into the bloodstream, causing a serious blood infection called sepsis.


What are the treatments for the condition?

Some of the antibiotics that may be used to treat UTIs are listed here. Three days of therapy has been found to be as effective as five or seven days of treatment.
  • amoxicillin and clavulanate (i.e., Augmentin)
  • cephalexin (i.e., Keflex, Panixine DisperDose)
  • ciprofloxacin (i.e., Cipro, Proquin SR) or levofloxacin (i.e., Levaquin)
  • nitrofurantoin (i.e., Furadantin, Macrodantin, Macrobid)
  • sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (i.e., Bactrim, Septra, Sulfatrim)
Phenazopyridine (i.e., Pyridium) may be used to relieve painful urination and bladder spasms. Ibuprofen (i.e., Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol) may be used to reduce fever.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Antibiotics may cause stomach upset, rash, and allergic reactions. Phenazopyridine turns the urine a bright orange color.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Urinary symptoms usually clear up within the first 3 days of antibiotic therapy. If symptoms persist or worsen, the healthcare professional should be notified.


How is the condition monitored?

The healthcare professional may order a repeat urinalysis or urine culture to see if the UTI is gone. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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