Urinary tract infection - adults

Definition

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection of the urinary tract. The infection can occur at different points in the urinary tract including:

Causes

Most urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria that enter the urethra and then the bladder. The infection most commonly develops in the bladder, but can spread to the kidneys. Most of the time, your body can get rid of these bacteria. However, certain conditions increase the risk of having UTIs.

Women tend to get them more often because their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus than in men. Because of this, women are more likely to get an infection after sexual activity or when using a diaphragm for birth control. Menopause also increases the risk of a UTI.

The following also increase your chances of developing a UTI:

Symptoms

The symptoms of a bladder infection include:

If the infection spreads to your kidneys, symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

Most of the time you will need to provide a urine sample for the following tests:

Blood tests such as CBC and a blood culture may be done as well.

You may also need the following tests to help rule out other problems in your urinary system:

Treatment

Your health care provider must first decide if the infection is just in the bladder or has spread to the kidneys and how severe it is.

MILD BLADDER AND KIDNEY INFECTIONS

RECURRENT BLADDER INFECTIONS

Some women have repeated bladder infections. Your health care provider may suggest that you:

MORE SEVERE KIDNEY INFECTIONS

You may need to go into the hospital if you are very sick and cannot take medicines by mouth or drink enough fluids. You may also be admitted to the hospital if you:

At the hospital, you will receive fluids and antibiotics through a vein.

Some people have urinary tract infections that do not go away with treatment or keep coming back. These are called chronic UTIs. If you have a chronic UTI, you may need stronger antibiotics or take medicine for a longer time.

You may need surgery if the infection is caused by a problem with the structure of the urinary tract.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most urinary tract infections can be treated successfully. Bladder infection symptoms usually go away within 24 - 48 hours after treatment begins. If you have a kidney infection, it may take 1 week or longer for symptoms to go away.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of a UTI. Call right away if have signs of a possible kidney infection such as:

Also call if UTI symptoms come back shortly after you have been treated with antibiotics.

Prevention

Diet and lifestyle changes may help prevent some UTIs. After menopause, a woman may use estrogen cream around the vagina to reduce infections.


Review Date: 8/11/2013
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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