Urinary tract infections (or UTIs) cause painful, sometimes burning, sensations and an urge to go to the bathroom often, even if when you don't have to go. They can also be embarrassing to talk about, which can stand in the way of much needed relief. Knowing the urinary tract infection basics can help you discuss symptoms with your doctor so you can feel better faster.
What is a UTI? A urinary tract infection is typically a bacterial infection (usually caused by E. coli bacteria) that can occur anywhere along the urinary tract. The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines the urinary tract as the bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra. The most common type of UTI is cystitis — also known as a bladder infection. Upper tract and kidney infections have the potential to be more serious types of UTIs.
Susceptibility to UTI. Anyone can get a urinary tract infection at any time, but according to the Mayo Clinic, women are more prone to get UTIs than men. Additional risk factors include sexual activity, types of birth control, structural abnormalities, blockages in the urinary tract, catheterization and immune deficiency.
Check with your doctor. If you suspect a UTI — or have more serious symptoms such as back pain, chills, fever or vomiting — you'll need to verify the infection with your doctor and be treated. Only a trained physician can diagnose and care for a UTI properly. Left unchecked, UTIs can lead to more severe infections of the bladder, kidneys, ureters or urethra.
Treatment options. Once you've seen your doctor and been diagnosed with a UTI, your infection will be categorized for treatment. Mild or simple bladder or kidney infections are treated differently than more serious infections. A round of antibiotics will be given to both men and women for most urinary tract infections. Women typically receive a three-to-14-day course, while men may get treatment for seven to 14 days. Very serious or chronic infections may require a hospital stay with IV fluids and antibiotic therapy. Once you've been treated for a UTI, the symptoms usually go away within five days in most normal healthy adults. Even if you feel better, keep taking all the antibiotics prescribed to be sure the bacteria is completely gone and won't lead to a resurgence with an antibiotic-resistant strain.