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Urinary tract infections explained

Urinary Tract Infections Explained

January 12, 2020

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a general term for a bacterial infection occurring somewhere in the urinary system between the kidneys and urethra – usually the bladder.

"UTIs are more common among women than men. This may be because women have shorter urethras, making it easier for bacteria to move up their urinary tracts and cause infections,” says Benjamin Dillon, MD, Associate Chief of Urology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.

Causes of UTI

Common causes among women include:

  • Improper hygiene
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Blockage in the urinary tract

Signs and Symptoms

UTIs don’t always exhibit signs and symptoms, especially early on. Dr. Dillon says when they do appear, symptoms may include:

  • A strong, persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Urine that appears cloudy
  • Urine that appears red, bright pink, or cola-colored – a sign of blood in the urine
  • Foul-smelling urine

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose a urinary tract infection, your doctor may call for a urinalysis or a urine culture to establish the presence and type of bacteria, which will help determine the appropriate treatment. In the case of recurrent UTIs, additional tests may be ordered to determine whether the urinary tract is normal.

“Although over-the-counter test strips are available for at-home use, I don’t recommend them due to many false-positive results,” Dr. Dillon says. “If you think you have a UTI, see your doctor, who will ask about your symptoms and test a sample of your urine for bacteria. If a bacterium is detected, it’s usually cleared up with prescription antibiotics," he assures.

He says women have used unsweetened cranberry juice to prevent UTIs but cautions there isn't enough scientific evidence to prove the effectiveness.

"If you believe you have a UTI, have a medical exam and get the proper treatment. Untreated, UTIs could turn into more serious health complications," Dr. Dillon says.

Headshot of Benjamin Ethan Dillon, MD

About the Author

Benjamin Dillon, MD is Associate Chief of Urology and Medical Director of Specialty Care at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. "I believe that although many of my patients have similar conditions, treating each patient requires an individual approach. By working with my patients, together, we can develop treatment options that will help improve their overall quality of life."

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