You notice an unusual “burning” feeling when urinating or feel the need to try to urinate more frequently than you normally do. These signs might mean that you have a urinary tract infection (UTI).
If you have any signs or symptoms of a UTI, you should seek medical treatment. An untreated UTI can lead to more serious infections or complications.
MedExpress centers are open 8 to 8 every day, with no appointment necessary. Visit your local MedExpress at the first sign of a UTI and our caring, friendly medical team can help you feel better fast.
What is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system, which includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Most UTIs happen in the lower part of your urinary tract - the bladder or urethra, the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
UTIs usually happen when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. Our urinary tracts are made to keep out unwanted bacteria, but sometimes these microbes slip past our bodies’ defenses.
UTIs are more common in women because of female anatomy – there is a shorter distance from the urethra to the anus as well as the urethral opening to the bladder. UTI causes are varied and post-menopausal women are particularly susceptible. Mostly, though, these infections are caused by bacteria commonly found in the gastroenterological tract, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli).
Symptoms of a UTI
When you have a UTI, you may not experience any symptoms. If you do, they usually include:
- A strong urge to urinate
- A “burning” feeling when urinating
- Only urinating small amounts, frequently
- Cloudy urine
- Urine that might look pink or reddish – this is a sign of blood in your urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- Women might experience pelvic pain
If the kidneys are infected, you might experience:
- Upper back pain
- Shaking or chills
Diagnosing a UTI
To diagnose a UTI, you’ll give a urine sample that will be analyzed by our medical team. This urinalysis can reveal signs of infection, such as a cloudy appearance and altered pH, as well as other more specific findings, such as byproducts of bacteria and white blood cells.
To identify the specific bacteria causing the infection, your provider may recommend obtaining a urine culture. For this, a urine sample will be sent to an outside lab. In addition to growing the bacteria for identification, it also allows the lab to check what antibiotics will effectively kill the bacteria so that proper treatment can be assured.
Treating a UTI
Because UTIs are caused by bacteria, they are treated with antibiotics. UTI treatment should begin as soon as the infection is diagnosed. If a urine culture is obtained, it can help guide the proper antibiotic choice, but most likely an empiric antibiotic will be started at the time of the visit in hopes of clearing up the infection as soon as possible
Some complications of an untreated UTI include:
- Recurrent infections, especially for those who have had a least two UTIs in a six-month period or who have had at least four in a year
- Permanent kidney damage from a kidney infection
- Sepsis, which is a serious and potentially life-threatening complication of an infection