The Basics

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

What is a UTI? Learn how to prevent, manage, and treat UTIs with safe practices, lifestyle, and medicine.

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. George Abraham

Last Updated:

December 3rd, 2022

What are UTIs?

Our urinary tract is the path that urine (pee) flows through to leave our bodies. Urine starts from the kidneys, then moves through the ureter, bladder, and urethra, and exits our bodies at the opening of the urethra.

In men, a Urethra opens at the hole of the penis. In women, a urethra opens between the clitoris and the vagina.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) happens when bacteria enters your urethra and infects the urinary tract. This bacteria usually comes from your anus, dirty hands, or skin.

Women are 30x more likely to get a UTI than men. Women have shorter urethras, and their urethral opening is closer to their anus.

Types of UTIs

Your urinary tract includes your kidneys, bladder, and urethra. There are three different types of UTIs, based on where the bacteria go in your urinary tract.

1) Urethra: Urethritis

2) Bladder: Cystitis

3) Kidney: Pylenonephritis

Symptoms: What's Bothering You?

Urethra (urethritis)

1) Pain – Itching or burning at the opening of the urethra (peeing tube), especially while urinating (peeing) (called dysuria)

2) Discharge from the urethra

3) Peeing too often

4) Blood in urine

Bladder (cystitis)

1) Pain or burning while urinating

2) Feeling the need to pee too often, even when you have just used the bathroom

3) Blood in urine

4) Pressure or cramping in the groin or above the penis/vagina

Kidney (pyelonephritis)

1) Fever

2) Chills

3) Pain in your lower back or the side of your back

4) Nausea or Vomiting

Diagnosis: Do You Have A UTI?

If you’re feeling the symptoms of a UTI, see your healthcare provider (doctor, clinic, hospital). It’s important to get tested because the symptoms of a UTI are similar to other conditions, like Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

They might use a urine test to confirm a UTI. A nurse may give you a special wipe to clean your genitals. Then, you pee into a container. In the next few days, a lab will check the urine for bacteria to see if you have a UTI.

If you find out that you have a UTI, seeing a doctor is important. Doctors can treat most UTIs with just medication. But, if you leave a UTI untreated, the bacteria may spread up your urinary tract. Upper UTIs are more painful and more difficult and expensive to treat.

If untreated, the bacteria may spread to your blood and infect your whole body. An untreated UTI could send you to the hospital in the worst cases.

Treatment: How to Feel Better

Medication: Antibiotics

Most UTIs can be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor may prescribe pills for 1 to 2 weeks.

Drink Water

In the meantime, you can drink lots of water. Water makes you urinate more, which helps flush out the harmful bacteria.

Drink enough water that your urine is almost clear, instead of just yellow.

Cranberry Juice?

Most UTIs can be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor may prescribe pills for 1 to 2 weeks.

Use Antibiotics the Right Way

Remember to take antibiotics exactly how your healthcare professional tells you. You may feel better in 1 to 2 days. Don’t stop antibiotics because you’re feeling better. You need to finish taking the antibiotics so you don’t get sick again.

Transmission: Protecting Family and Friends

UTIs are not a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). In most cases, UTIs do not spread from you to your partner, family, or friends.

But, bacteria from the anus, skin, or dirty hands could enter the urinary tract more easily during sex and cause a UTI.

Preventing a UTI

Men and Women

1) Water – Drinking more water makes us urinate more. Urinating helps flush out harmful bacteria from the urinary tract.

2) Pee when you need to – If urine stays in the bladder for longer, the bacteria have more time to grow. Urinate every 3-4 hours, if you can.

3) Urinate (pee) before and after sex – This flushes out bacteria that could enter the urinary tract during sex.

4) During sex, change the condom and wash thoroughly after anal penetration – prevent bacteria from traveling from the anus into the penis or vagina.

5) Check your birth control or contraception – diaphragms, spermicides, and condoms with spermicide can help bacteria grow.


1) Change pads and tampons often – This prevents bacteria from growing on these products and entering your vagina

2) Avoid scented products – Douches, powders, and scented sprays for the vagina can irritate the urethra and remove helpful bacteria.

3) Take showers instead of baths – Bacteria from a bath can enter your vagina. Showers, on the other hand, wash away bacteria.

4) Wipe front to back –When wiping after using the bathroom, wipe from the genital side (penis or vagina) towards the anus, not the other way around. This prevents harmful bacteria from the anus from entering the urinary tract.

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