Urinary Tract Infection
(UTI; Lower UTI)
by Julie Riley, MS, RD
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system including:
The infection can cause swelling in the tract. This makes it painful to pass urine. The infection may be named for the specific area of the urinary tract that it effects:
UTIs are caused by bacteria. The bacteria cling to the opening of the urethra. There they begin to grow and spread. The infection can then move up into the bladder. If the infection is not treated it can spread to the kidney. It can then lead to a severe kidney infection.
The bacteria often come from the colon or vagina. They are passed or moved toward the urethra.
UTIs are more common in women.
Other factors that may increase your chance of a UTI include:
Some conditions may increase the chance of a UTI:
Some may not have any symptoms. Those that do have symptoms may have:
An infection in the kidney can be more serious. Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of a kidney infection, such as:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. A sample of your urine will be studied for:
Frequent infections may be caused by a blockage or structure issues. Tests can show images of the urinary tract. Options may include:
UTIs are treated with antibiotics. You will probably start to feel better after 1-2 days. It is important to take all of the medicine, even if you feel better. A hospital stay may be needed with a severe infection. The antibiotics can then be delivered through an IV.
The infection may cause pain and spasms in the bladder. Your doctor may recommend medicine to help manage pain.
To help decrease the risk of a UTI:
If the UTI is due to a problem with the urinary tract it may need to be fixed. The repair may help prevent future infections.
National Kidney Foundation
Urology Care Foundation
Canadian Urological Association
Women's Health Matters
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 91: Treatment of urinary tract infections in nonpregnant women. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;111(3):785-794. Reaffirmed 2016.
Bladder infection (urinary tract infection—UTI) in adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults. Accessed September 7, 2017.
Jepson RG, Craig JC. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;(1):CD001321.
Pohl A. Modes of administration of antibiotics for symptomatic severe urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database of Syst Rev. 2007;(4):CD003237.
Uncomplicated urinary tract infection (UTI) (pyelonephritis and cystitis). DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116894/Uncomplicated-urinary-tract-infection-UTI-pyelonephritis-and-cystitis. Updated March 15, 2017. Accessed November 30, 2017.
Urinary tract infection (UTI) in men. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dyname... . Updated January 26, 2017. Accessed September 7, 2017.
What is a urinary tract infection (UTI) in adults? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at:
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Accessed September 1, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 7/3/2018
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