A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system â your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract â the bladder and the urethra.
Women are at greater risk of developing a UTI than are men. Infection limited to your bladder can be painful and annoying. However, serious consequences can occur if a UTI spreads to your kidneys.
Doctors typically treat urinary tract infections with antibiotics. But you can take steps to reduce your chances of getting a UTI in the first place.
Urinary tract infection care at Mayo Clinic
Urinary tract infections don't always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do they may include:
UTIs may be overlooked or mistaken for other conditions in older adults.
Each type of UTI may result in more-specific signs and symptoms, depending on which part of your urinary tract is infected.
|Part of urinary tract affected||Signs and symptoms|
|Kidneys (acute pyelonephritis)||
Contact your doctor if you have signs and symptoms of a UTI.
Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. Although the urinary system is designed to keep out such microscopic invaders, these defenses sometimes fail. When that happens, bacteria may take hold and grow into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract.
The most common UTIs occur mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra.
Infection of the bladder (cystitis). This type of UTI is usually caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a type of bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. However, sometimes other bacteria are responsible.
Sexual intercourse may lead to cystitis, but you don't have to be sexually active to develop it. All women are at risk of cystitis because of their anatomy â specifically, the short distance from the urethra to the anus and the urethral opening to the bladder.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose urinary tract infections include:
When treated promptly and properly, lower urinary tract infections rarely lead to complications. But left untreated, a urinary tract infection can have serious consequences.
Complications of a UTI may include:
You can take these steps to reduce your risk of urinary tract infections:
Many people drink cranberry juice to prevent UTIs. There's some indication that cranberry products, in either juice or tablet form, may have infection-fighting properties. Researchers continue to study the ability of cranberry juice to prevent UTIs, but results are not conclusive.
If you enjoy drinking cranberry juice and feel it helps you prevent UTIs, there's little harm in it, but watch the calories. For most people, drinking cranberry juice is safe, but some people report an upset stomach or diarrhea.
However, don't drink cranberry juice if you're taking blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin.
Urinary tract infections can be painful, but you can take steps to ease your discomfort until antibiotics treat the infection. Follow these tips:
Urinary tract infections are common in women, and many women experience more than one infection during their lifetimes. Risk factors specific to women for UTIs include:
Other risk factors for UTIs include: