A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection in any part of the urinary system – the bladder, ureters, kidneys, or urethra may all be affected. UTIs are are most common in the lower portion of the urinary tract, meaning the bladder or urethra. Men and women are both susceptible to UTIs, but women are more likely to develop such infections.
UTIs are commonly accompanied by symptoms such as pain or burning during urination, frequent urge to urinate but with little output, cloudy or dark-colored urine, foul-smelling urine, or pelvic pain. These infections are caused by bacteria entering the urethra and multiplying in the bladder. Women are more susceptible to UTIs because of their anatomy and the close proximity of the urethra to the vagina and anus. Bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract may travel from the anus to the urethra during bowel movements or while cleaning up afterwards. Bacteria may travel from the vagina to the urethra during intercourse. Certain forms of birth control, such as diaphragms or spermicides, also leave a woman at an increased risk.
A UTI often requires treatment with antibiotics. The earlier the infection is diagnosed, the more likely treatment is to be successful, so it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing UTI symptoms. A urine test will not only confirm the presence of infection, but may determine the type of bacteria responsible, which will enable your doctor to prescribe the most effective antibiotic. If you have a history of frequent UTIs, your doctor may want to investigate further to determine why you are experiencing recurrent problems. This may be done through various imaging tests or through using a scope to look inside the bladder. If abnormalities are found, further tests may be ordered.