What Causes A Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infections are caused by microorganisms usually bacteria that enter the urethra and bladder, causing inflammation and infection. Though a UTI most commonly happens in the urethra and bladder, bacteria can also travel up the ureters and infect your kidneys.
More than 90% of bladder infection cases are caused by E. coli, a bacterium normally found in the intestines.
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How Are Urinary Tract Infections Diagnosed
Your doctor will use the following tests to diagnose a urinary tract infection:
- Urinalysis: This test will examine the urine for red blood cells, white blood cells and bacteria. The number of white and red blood cells found in your urine can actually indicate an infection.
- Urine culture: A urine culture is used to determine the type of bacteria in your urine. This is an important test because it helps determine the appropriate treatment.
If your infection does not respond to treatment or if you keep getting infections over and over again, your doctor may use the following tests to examine your urinary tract for disease or injury:
- Ultrasound: In this test, sound waves create an image of the internal organs. This test is done on top of your skin, is painless and doesnt typically need any preparation.
- Cystoscopy: This test uses a special instrument fitted with a lens and a light source to see inside the bladder from the urethra.
- CT scan: Another imaging test, a CT scan is a type of X-ray that takes cross sections of the body . This test is much more precise than typical X-rays.
About Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are common infections that can affect the bladder, the kidneys and the tubes connected to them.
Anyone can get them, but they’re particularly common in women. Some women experience them regularly .
UTIs can be painful and uncomfortable, but usually pass within a few days and can be easily treated with antibiotics.
This page is about UTIs in adults. There is a separate article about UTIs in children.
This page covers:
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What Is A Uti And What Is A Bladder Infection
A urinary tract infection is an infection in your urinary system. Around 50-60% of women will experience at least one UTI in their lifetime, and an unlucky number of them get UTIs frequently. The American Urological Association estimates that 20-40% of women who have had one UTI will get another one, and 25-50% of those women will end up having at least one more after that. Men can also get UTIs, though this happens less frequently than it does in women.
UTIs occur when unwanted bacteria end up in your urinary tract and trigger inflammation. They are caused by a variety of factors, including sexual activity, poor hygiene, genetics, age, and certain types of contraceptives.
The most reliable sign of a UTI is a stinging or burning sensation with urination, though other symptoms may also occur.
A bladder infection is a type of UTI that occurs specifically in your bladder.
Think of it this way: Your urinary tract includes your urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys.
Your bladder is the closest organ to your urethra , so its the area of the body most commonly affected by UTIs. Doctors call inflammation in the bladder cystitis and inflammation in the urethra urethritis.
And It Wont Hurt To Try These
Like many women, you may have memorized the following age-old advice for preventing UTIs:
Wipe from front to back.
Urinate before and after sex.
Drink lots of water.
Avoid tight underpants and jeans.
These suggestions are directed at flushing the bladder and keeping E. coli from spreading into the urinary tract. Although studies have failed to show that they prevent either primary or recurrent UTIs, theres no harm in trying them, Dr. Gupta says. They cant hurt, and if they help, youre ahead of the game.
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What Is The Difference Between Cystitis And Uti
A UTI can occur in any part of the urinary tract: the urethra, ureters, kidneys, or bladder. If the infection stays in the urethra, its considered urethritis. The urethra is a tube that allows the body to expel urine and is connected to the bladder. If the infection occurs in the lower urinary tract and bladder, its considered cystitis. The ureters, two narrow tubes, drain urine from the kidneys into the bladder. Kidneys are responsible for removing waste and excess water from the body. If the infection moves to the upper urinary tract and kidneys, its considered pyelonephritis.
Can I Become Immune To The Antibiotics Used To Treat A Uti
Your body can actually get used to the antibiotics typically used to treat a urinary tract infection . This happens in people who have very frequent infections. With each UTI and use of antibiotics to treat it, the infection adapts and becomes harder to fight. This is called an antibiotic-resistant infection. Because of this, your healthcare provider may suggest alternative treatments if you have frequent UTIs. These could include:
- Waiting: Your provider may suggest that you watch your symptoms and wait. During this time, you may be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids in an effort to flush out your system.
- Intravenous treatment: In some very complicated cases, where the UTI is resistant to antibiotics or the infection has moved to your kidneys, you may need to be treated in the hospital. The medicine will be given to you directly in your vein . Once youre home, you will be prescribed antibiotics for a period of time to fully get rid of the infection.
Urgency Or Difficulty Urinating
A bladder disorder can make it difficult to fully empty your bladder. This can cause frequent urination, feeling like you always have to urinate, or both.
When the bladder wall thickens, the bladder may not be able to hold as much urine as it normally does. This can create those urgent feelings of having to urinate more frequently. BOO can also make it harder to urinate.
How Can You Tell The Difference Between A Bladder Infection And A Uti
Theres a reason that people use the terms UTI and bladder infection interchangeablythe symptoms are largely the same.
- Burning sensation while peeing
- Feeling of urgency to pee, but produce very little urine
The most common type of UTI is a bladder infection. Therefore if you have a UTI, its likely in your bladder. And thankfully, bladder infections are relatively simple to treat.
If you have a UTI that isnt a bladder infection, you may experience additional symptoms.
- Lower back pain that feels more severe than a bladder infection
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pinkish or reddish urine
If you think you have a UTI, its important to get treated quickly to prevent the infection from spreading to your kidneys.
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What Is The Urinary Tract
The urinary tract makes and stores urine, one of the body’s liquid waste products. The urinary tract includes the following parts:
- Kidneys: These small organs are located on back of your body, just above the hips. They are the filters of your body removing waste and water from your blood. This waste becomes urine.
- Ureters: The ureters are thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to your bladder.
- Bladder: A sac-like container, the bladder stores your urine before it leaves the body.
- Urethra: This tube carries the urine from your bladder to the outside of the body.
Treatment From A Gp For Utis That Keep Coming Back
If your UTI comes back after treatment, or you have 2 UTIs in 6 months, a GP may:
- prescribe a different antibiotic or prescribe a low-dose antibiotic to take for up to 6 months
- prescribe a vaginal cream containing oestrogen, if you have gone through the menopause
- refer you to a specialist for further tests and treatments
In some people, antibiotics do not work or urine tests do not pick up an infection, even though you have UTI symptoms.
This may mean you have a long-term UTI that is not picked up by current urine tests. Ask the GP for a referral to a specialist for further tests and treatments.
Long-term UTIs are linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer in people aged 60 and over.
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Can You Still Have A Uti Even If Culture Came Back Negative
So basically Ive been suffering with bv, yeast infections and Utis. Ive had 3 different antibiotics for bv, and 2 for Utis. During my last rounds of test everything came back negative, but the problem Is I still have symptoms. It burns when I pee and it smells bad. No frequency. But sometimes when I go pee only a little comes out and the pee is cloudy. My urologist wants to talk about the possibility Of having interstitial cystitis.i rather not have that because there is no cure. I also dont feel like I have that, but maybe Im just in denial. My question is could I still have a uti even if the the cultures I got were negative? Could it maybe be a small uti? Is it possible. I just need hope I really dont want the other thing.
1 like, 93 replies
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When It Feels Like A Uti But Its Not
Interstitial cystitis , the condition I wrote about in Is it a UTI or something else, can seem like a chronic urinary tract infection.
But unlike a UTI, no bacterial infection is present. All the other annoying symptoms are however especially the frequent and often painful urination.
It often hits around the age of 40 and nearly one million Americans suffer from it 90 percent of them are women. But there is relief
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Preventing Urinary Tract Infection
You can reduce your chances of developing a UTI by keeping your bladder and urethra free from bacteria.
You can help prevent an infection by:
- drinking plenty of fluids
To help keep your urinary tract free from bacteria:
- go to the toilet as soon as you feel the need to urinate , rather than holding it in
- wipe from front to back after going to the toilet
- practice good hygiene by washing your genitals every day and before having sex
- empty your bladder after having sex
- if youre a woman, avoid hovering over a toilet seat as it can result in your bladder not being fully emptied
Diaphragms and condoms
If you use a diaphragm and have recurring UTIs, you might want to consider changing to another method of contraception. This is because the diaphragm may press on your bladder and prevent it emptying completely when you urinate.
If you get recurring UTIs and you use condoms, try using condoms that dont have a spermicidal lubricant on them it will say whether it does on the packet.
Spermicidal lubricant can cause irritation and may make it more likely that youll experience symptoms similar to a UTI.
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Medical Treatment For Kidney Infections
Antibiotics are always the first line of defense against a kidney infection. If the kidney infection isnt severe, a doctor will likely give you oral antibiotics to take once or twice a day for 7 to 14 days.
Its important to take the entire course of antibiotics, even if you feel better within several days. Stopping early could lead to antibiotic resistance or re-infection. A doctor will also encourage you to drink plenty of water.
In some cases, kidney infections may require going to the hospital. Youll be given fluids and antibiotics intravenously through an IV, both of which can help treat the infection.
In addition, lab work and imaging may be done to determine the severity of the infection as well as the cause, such as a blockage due to a kidney stone or anatomical abnormality.
If you have recurring UTIs that increase your risk of frequent kidney infections, a doctor will help you establish the cause of their frequency and help you prevent further infections from occurring.
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How To Prevent A Uti From Striking Again
Sick of dealing with urinary tract infections? Really, the best natural remedy is simple: just prevent one from striking in the first place! Heres how:
Drink cranberry juice
Although it has often been thought of as a treatment option, cranberry juice can only help as a preventative measure. Cranberry juice can be helpful in preventing UTIs by making the urine more acidic and preventing harmful bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder, Dr. Sherry explains. An acidic environment in the urine makes bacterial build-up more difficult and reduces your chance of getting a UTI. But even with this information, studies have conflicting evidence about cranberries being a reliable source for prevention. So if youre prone to UTIs, it wont hurt to drink unsweetened cranberry juice. But its definitely not the UTI cure-all it has always been thought to be.
Practice good hygiene after sex and ask your partner to, too
Overall health with increased water intake and exercise is the best way to improve health and help with decreasing UTIs, Dr. Shepherd shares. This includes good hygiene and being diligent about cleaning all of your lady parts. And make sure your partner does, too. Bacteria from sexual intercourse is one of the most common ways women can get a UTI, Dr. Shepherd explains.
Limit antibiotic use
Avoid feminine hygiene products with scents and chemicals
Wipe front to back
Other Ways To Prevent Some Utis Coming Back
If you keep getting a bladder infection , there’s some evidence it may be helpful to take:
- D-mannose a sugar you can buy as a powder or tablets to take every day
- cranberry products available as juice, tablets or capsules to take every day
Speak to your doctor before taking any of these during pregnancy.
Be aware that D-mannose and cranberry products can contain a lot of sugar.
If you’re taking warfarin, you should avoid cranberry products.
Page last reviewed: 22 March 2022 Next review due: 22 March 2025
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When Should I Call My Doctor About A Bladder Infection
If you experience the symptoms of a bladder infection or urinary tract infection, call your healthcare provider to discuss a treatment plan.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Bladder infections are common urinary tract infections. You might feel pain and burning when you pee, as well as the urge to pee more frequently than you normally do. If you have these inflammatory symptoms, call your healthcare provider. You should start to feel better after a few days of antibiotic treatment, but its important to finish the entire prescription so the infection doesnt return.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/22/2021.
- US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Bladder Infection in Adults. Accessed 8/20/2021.
- Merck Manual. Bladder Infection . Accessed 8/20/2021.
- Li R, Leslie S. Cystitis. StatPearls. July 2021. Accessed 8/20/2021.
- Lala V, Minter D. Acute Cystitis. StatPearls. June 2021. Accessed 8/20/2021.
- Douglas-Moore J, Goddard J. Current best practices in the management of cystitis and pelvic pain. Ther Adv Urol. January 2018 10:17-22. Accessed 8/20/2021.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Urinary Tract Infection. Accessed 8/20/2021.
- American Urological Association, Urology Care Foundation. What is a Urinary Tract Infection in Adults? Accessed 8/20/2021.
What Are The Treatment Options
Treating a thickened bladder wall means treating the underlying condition that caused the change in the wall.
For example, UTI treatment usually involves a course of antibiotic therapy. To prevent UTIs, practice good hygiene. Wipe front to back to reduce the risk of germs from the rectum reaching the urethra.
Surgery can remove noncancerous tumors that are causing you symptoms. The tumors usually wont recur.
Cancerous growths can sometimes be removed with surgery, too. Additional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation, may also be necessary.
Prostate treatment is a somewhat controversial subject. Prostate surgery can sometimes lead to incontinence or erectile dysfunction. If prostate symptoms are minor, your doctor may recommend a watch-and-wait approach to monitor your prostate regularly. Prostate cancer is often a slow-growing cancer. This means aggressive treatment isnt always best.
If excess bladder emptying due to urge incontinence is a problem, your doctor may recommend anticholinergic drugs. These medications relax the detrusor muscle of the bladder.
If urinary retention is occurring due to BOO, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as tamsulosin, to help your urine flow be stronger.
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Chronic Or Recurring Utis
Some people get UTIs more often than others. They might have UTIs that last a long time or that come back more than 3 times in a year .
You might have heard that cranberry juice or cranberry pills can help if you get UTIs a lot. Some studies have tested whether cranberry products with the fruit sugar D-mannose benefit people who get UTIs. More research needs to be done to see how well they work.
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