UTI General Information

UTI Overview

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection caused by bacteria that get into any of the four parts of the urinary tract and multiply. A UTI is also referred to as a bladder infection or cystitis. The four parts of the urinary tract are the urethra, bladder, ureter and kidneys.

Each component of the urinary tract performs a vital function:

  • The urethra is the tube that carries urine outside the body from the bladder.
  • The ureter is the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
  • The bladder stores urine until it passes out of the body.
  • The kidneys filter waste from the blood to produce urine.

A UTI typically occurs in the bladder, but if it is left untreated, the infection can spread to the other parts of the urinary tract. If the infection reaches the kidneys, it becomes a very serious condition. An infection of the urethra is medically referred to as urethritis, an infection of the bladder is called cystitis, and an infection of one or both of the kidneys or the ureters is known as pyelonephritis.

What causes a UTI?

Uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by the bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. coli) approximately 90% of the time. Typically E. coli is a harmless microorganism that is already present in your intestines, colon and around the anus, but if it makes its way to your urinary tract, the result is a urinary tract infection. Most urinary tract infections begin at the opening of the urethra (where urine leaves the body) and makes it way up the urinary tract.

What causes or increases the risk of getting a UTI?

  • Wiping from back to front after a bowel movement increases the chances of getting a UTI since bacteria from the anus can be transported to the vaginal opening.
  • Not urinating after sexual activity can increase your risk of having a UTI. Urinating after sex helps to flush away bacteria that may have been transferred or multiplied during intercourse.
  • Waiting too long to pass urine when you have the urge can lead to a UTI as not urinating allows bacteria to multiply in the bladder.
  • Using a diaphragm for birth control or spermicides with a diaphragm or condom can increase the probability of having a UTI as these birth control methods can help spread bacteria.
  • Urinating through a catheter, as it can cause bacteria to flourish.
  • Prolonged periods of immobility, such as recovering from surgery. Being immobile can allow urine to sit in the bladder too long.
  • Wearing underwear or panties without a cotton crotch allows moisture and bacteria to get trapped against the body.
  • Wearing tight-fitting clothing that isn't made of a breathable fabric.
  • Taking baths rather than showers since sitting in a bath makes it easier for bath products or unclean water to enter the urinary tract.
  • Using feminine sprays or douching, since their chemicals and perfumes can irritate and cause infection.

In women undergoing menopause, the drop in estrogen levels and change in the lining of the vagina and tissue of the vulva can increase your likelihood of having a UTI. People with blockages of the urinary tract, such as kidney stones, are more likely to get a UTI since these obstacles make it difficult to fully empty the urinary tract. In people with diabetes, the increase in sugar in the urinary tract and the changes in their immune system may make it easier for them to develop a UTI.

It is estimated that nearly half of all women will have at least one UTI during their lifetime.

How do I test for a UTI?

Traditionally, being diagnosed and treated for a UTI involved going to a doctor's office for a urinalysis and sometimes for a urine culture as well. However, there have been numerous medical studies and research has proven that a UTI can be diagnosed and appropriately treated simply by answering a few targeted questions about your symptoms and your relevant medical history. Either approach will allow the correct diagnosis and treatment 95% of the time. By completing our online questionnaire regarding your possible UTI symptoms and medical history, you will be well on your way to getting your UTI diagnosed, and if appropriate, getting the necessary antibiotic treatment prescribed by one of our physicians to relief from your UTI fast.

Is there a cure for UTIs?

Because UTIs are caused by bacteria, the only way to fully cure a UTI is with prescription antibiotics that eliminate the bacteria. Other methods of treatment merely mask your symptoms instead of wiping out the bacteria causing the infection. While it is possible to get some relief from the symptoms of a UTI without prescription antibiotics, the bacteria that cause the infection are still present in your urinary tract and it is likely that your symptoms (and the discomfort that come with them) will return. By treating a urinary tract infection with antibiotics and not just treating the symptoms, you rid the urinary tract of the bacteria that cause the infection.

Can I get a UTI again after I have been treated?

Yes, it is possible to get a urinary tract infection again. Even if you have had a UTI and were treated for it in the past with antibiotics, if the bacteria is reintroduced to your urethra or other parts of your urinary tract, you can get a new infection. Getting a UTI again later after being cured in the past occurs when the bacteria is reintroduced to your body and reinfects your urinary tract. Statistically, 20% of women who have had a UTI will at some point get another urinary tract infection, and 30% of women who have had two UTIs will get a third. Furthermore, 80% of women who have had three or more UTIs will likely have recurring UTIs throughout their lifetime. This is why it is so important to eradicate the bacteria that cause the infection with prescription antibiotics. Many of the advertised or recommended home remedies for the symptoms of UTIs do not eliminate the bacteria causing the infection and instead are only covering up the infection’s symptoms rather than curing it.