Many people suffer from a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point during their lives, and antibiotics are often effective treatments. But, what may seem like a simple bladder infection can progress into a more serious urinary-tract condition if not properly diagnosed and treated. Memorial Hermann primary care physicians and urologists are highly trained in identifying the source of the UTI and recommending an effective treatment to ease the symptoms.

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection in the urinary system. The urinary system is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. UTI is a common condition, occurring more frequently in women than in men, and develops when bacteria enter the urethra. The most common types of infections are cystitis (bladder infection), pyelonephritis (kidney infection) and urethritis (urethra infection).

Cystitis (bladder infection)

This is the most common type of UTI. It occurs when there is bacterial growth in the bladder urine. Antibiotics are usually very effective for cystitis treatment.

Pyelonephritis (kidney infection)

A kidney infection occurs when a bacterial infection moves up the urinary tract. Another cause of pyelonephritis is an obstruction in the urinary tract.

Urethritis (urethra infection)

An infection of the urethra develops when bacteria enter the urethra. Urethritis is frequently caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Symptoms of a UTI

Some UTIs do not show any symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Frequent urination or urinary incontinence
  • Burning with urination
  • Needing to urinate more often and/or feeling an urgency to urinate
  • Cloudy-looking and/or strong smelling urine
  • Abdominal or back pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea/vomiting/decreased appetite

Causes and Risk Factors of a UTI

Urinary tract infections develop when bacteria enter the urethra. The infection may stay localized in the urethra, or it can move through the urinary track infecting the bladder, kidneys or ureters.

Women are at greater risk of developing a UTI than men because of their anatomy. The female urethra is shorter than the male urethra, making it easier for bacteria to travel to other organs.

Other risk factors for women include sexual activity, menopause and certain medications.

How a UTI is diagnosed

Urinary tract infections can be diagnosed by collecting a urine sample and having it analyzed in a laboratory. The urine sample can identify the type of bacteria present in your system, which will determine the type of treatment needed.

If you have repeated UTIs, your physician may recommend additional testing to determine the cause. The following testing options may be considered:

Imaging

An ultrasound, CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam can identify problems in your urinary tract.

Cystoscopy

Using a local anesthetic, your physician will insert a device into your urethra and up into your bladder to examine different parts of the urinary tract.

Treatment for a UTI

UTI treatment is usually a dose of oral antibiotics. In most cases, the medication will resolve the infection without complications. More severe UTIs may require intravenous (IV) antibiotics.  If left untreated, however, the infection can spread and intensify, causing serious health problems. An untreated UTI may lead to significant kidney damage.

Preventing UTI

You can take some simple steps to help avoid developing a UTI:

  • Stay hydrated - drinking plenty of water causes you to urinate more frequently. The more often you urinate, the more opportunity the bacteria has to leave your system.
  • Drink cranberry juice - experts do not agree on the effects of cranberry juice, but many believe it may offer some protection against developing a UTI.
  • Urinate after intercourse - it is important to urinate soon after intercourse to help move bacteria away from the urethra.
  • When using the bathroom, wipe from front to back - wiping your vaginal area first helps keep bacteria located in the anal area from spreading to the urethra.

Scheduling an appointment

We are committed to using a multidisciplinary approach to provide exceptional urological care. Our highly skilled practitioners utilize leading-edge treatments for a full range health concerns.

Memorial Hermann primary care physicians and urologists can diagnose a UTI and recommend treatment to keep it from spreading throughout your urinary system. If you think you may have a UTI, schedule an appointment at a physician’s office or check-in online at your neighborhood Memorial Hermann Urgent Care.