In This Section
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- How do I treat and prevent UTIs?
- What’s a UTI?
- What causes UTIs?
- What are the symptoms of a UTI?
- Urinary Tract Infections in Men: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
- Factors That Put Men at Risk for UTIs
- Recognizing UTI Symptoms in Men
- How UTIs in Men Are Diagnosed
- How Urinary Tract Infections Are Treated in Men
- How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections in Men
- What is the urinary tract?
- What are the most common symptoms of a UTI?
- What factors effect someone’s risk for getting a UTI?
- What should I do if I think I have a UTI?
- How can my health care provider tell if I have a UTI?
- What is the treatment for a UTI?
- Is there anything I can do to prevent getting a UTI?
- Urinary Tract Infections in Boys
- Causes of Urinary Tract Infections in Boys
- Preventing Urinary Tract Infections in Boys
- Treating Urinary Tract Infections in Boys
- Urinary Tract Infection in Men
- What Is It?
- Urinary Tract Infection
- What causes urinary tract infections?
- What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
- What increases my risk for a UTI?
- What are the signs and symptoms of a UTI?
- How is a UTI diagnosed?
- How is a UTI treated?
- What can I do to prevent a UTI?
- When should I seek immediate care?
- When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- Further information
- Learn more about Urinary Tract Infection in Men
What’s a UTI?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urinary system, including your bladder and urethra. Anyone can get a UTI, but they’re more common if you have a vulva.
X in a circle
Think you may have a UTI?
Find a Health Center A right arrow in a circle
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection in your urinary system, including the
bladder — the organ that collects and stores urine
urethra — the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body
There are two kinds of UTIs: cystitis and urethritis. Cystitis is an infection of the bladder. Urethritis is an infection of the urethra. If left untreated, either of these can spread and cause a kidney infection. So even though UTIs are really common, you’ve got to take them seriously.
What causes UTIs?
It’s pretty easy to get a urinary tract infection. Bacteria that live in the vagina, genital, and anal areas may enter the urethra, travel to the bladder, and cause an infection. This can happen during sexual activity when bacteria from your partner’s genitals, anus, fingers, or sex toys gets pushed into your urethra. UTIs can also be caused by chlamydia, gonorrhea, or other organisms.
Although UTIs aren’t spread from one person to another like STDs, having sex can lead to or worsen UTIs. But you don’t have to have sex to get a UTI. Anything that brings bacteria in contact with your urethra can cause a UTI.
You’re more likely to get a UTI if you
have had one before
use spermicides or a diaphragm
have kidney stones or other obstructions in your urinary tract
Most people aren’t able to pinpoint the exact cause of their UTI because so many things can lead to it.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
One of the most common symptoms of a UTI is a frequent and urgent need to pee. You might feel like you need to pee all the time, even if you just went. Other UTI symptoms include:
pain or burning when you pee
bad-smelling or cloudy urine
blood or pus in your urine
soreness, pressure, or cramps in your lower belly, back, or sides
If the infection goes to your kidneys, your UTI symptoms may also include:
pain in your mid-back (to the right or left of the spine)
If you have any of these symptoms, tell your doctor right away. Kidney infections are serious and need to be treated immediately.
These symptoms aren’t always caused by a UTI. Other infections, such as STDs or vaginitis, may cause painful or frequent urination. Only a doctor or nurse can tell for sure if you have a UTI.
Was this page helpful?
Help us improve – how could this information be more helpful?
How did this information help you?
You’re the best! Thanks for your feedback. Thanks for your feedback.
A 26-year-old male college student presented with 1 week of constant, right lower quadrant, throbbing abdominal pain that was worse after eating and accompanied by bilious emesis. He had experienced similar, albeit less severe and self-limited, episodes of abdominal pain during the preceding 6 months. He denied fevers or chills but had lost 4.5 kg (10 lbs) in the past 6 months. During the same time period, he was treated twice with antibiotics for urinary tract infections (UTIs) after reporting symptoms of dysuria and noting “bubbles” in his urine. A urine culture was never obtained.
Which one of the following is true regarding UTIs in general or more specifically in this patient?
The yearly incidence in men younger than 50 years is 100 per 10,000
A urine culture was unnecessary before starting antibiotics
The patient should receive antibiotics for 3 days
Dysuria is an uncommon symptom in men with UTIs
Escherichia coli was the most likely culprit bacteria for his UTIs
Urinary tract infections are uncommon in men because of the longer length of the male urethra, antibacterial properties of prostatic fluid, and less frequent periurethral colonization in men. The incidence in men younger than 50 years is approximately 5 to 8 per 10,000 per year. The incidence of UTIs in men increases with age, and the lifetime prevalence is estimated at 13,000 to 14,000 per 100,000 adult men.1 Although most community-acquired UTIs in women can be treated empirically with antibiotics without the need for a urine culture, a urine culture should always be obtained when a male patient presents with a suspected UTI. Simple UTIs (eg, cystitis in women) can be treated with 3 days of antibiotics2; however, UTIs in men are considered “complicated” by definition and warrant at least 7 days of antibiotic therapy. Dysuria is the most frequent presenting symptom of UTIs in both men and women.1,3,4 Most UTIs are caused by gram-negative organisms from the colon that colonize the periurethral skin. E coli is the most common cause of UTIs in both sexes.
On examination, the patient appeared pale and cachectic. Cervical, axillary, and inguinal lymph nodes were not palpable. His abdomen was scaphoid with marked right lower quadrant tenderness without rigidity, guarding, or rebound tenderness. An ill-defined mass was palpable in the right lower quadrant. There was no tenderness in the costovertebral angle. On auscultation, bowel sounds were normoactive. Laboratory studies yielded the following results (reference ranges provided parenthetically): hemoglobin concentration, 11.9 g/dL (13.5-17.5 g/dL); mean corpuscular volume, 78.3 fL (81.2-95.1 fL); white blood cell count, 15.9 × 109/L (3.5-10.5 × 109/L) with 85% neutrophils; and creatinine level, 1.1 mg/dL (0.9-1.4 mg/dL). Urinalysis revealed 21 to 30 white blood cells per high-powered field, 3 to 10 red blood cells per high-powered field, no casts, and numerous bacteria. A clean-catch, midstream urine specimen showed no bacterial growth.
A history of which one of the following would not increase this patient’s risk of recurrent UTIs?
Benign prostatic hyperplasia
Urinary tract infections in men, especially if recurrent, warrant a search for an underlying structural abnormality, such as an enlarged prostate, colovesical fistulas associated with colonic malignancy or inflammatory bowel disease, and congenital malformations of the urogenital tract. Instrumentation of the urinary tract (eg, during a cystoscopy or catheterization) can result in UTIs in both men and women. Conditions that suppress immune function (eg, diabetes mellitus, infection with human immunodeficiency virus) can also predispose men to recurrent UTIs. Furthermore, uncircumcised men with poor hygiene and men who partake in unprotected sexual intercourse are also at increased risk of recurrent UTIs.1,3 Although tobacco use is a risk factor for urothelial malignancies, it is not associated with an increased risk of UTIs. The site of the infection in the urinary tract can offer a clue to the underlying predisposing condition. Infections of the upper urinary tract (eg, pyelonephritis) are typically caused by obstructive uropathy from a calculus or a tumor. In contrast, infections of the lower urinary tract (eg, cystitis, urethritis) are often the result of a sexually transmitted infection. The organism causing the UTI can also provide some insight into the underlying predisposition. Gram-negative bacteria such as E coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are often found in patients with anatomic obstruction.5-7 One study suggested that approximately 24% of patients with a stone were infected with a urease-splitting organism.8 In contrast, organisms such as Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Ureaplasma urealyticum, or Trichomonas vaginalis are typically sexually transmitted infections.5-7 Yeast (eg, candidal) infections might suggest underlying immunosuppression such as that which occurs with diabetes or corticosteroid use.5-7 Catheterization results in a higher prevalence of resistant organisms, including Pseudomonas species and rare gram-negative organisms.9
In our patient, computed tomography of the abdomen and pelvis showed thickening of the cecum and terminal ileum with inflammatory stranding in the adjacent peritoneal fat. A fistulous communication was noted between a loop of terminal ileum and the dome of the urinary bladder.
Which one of the following is the most likely diagnosis in this patient?
Acute appendicitis is unlikely given the recurrent nature of the symptoms. The cachexia and weight loss suggest a chronic illness and would be compatible with lymphoma; however, the absence of lymphadenopathy and lymphocytosis argue against this diagnosis. Crohn disease follows a bimodal age distribution, with the first peak between ages 15 and 30 years, which is compatible with this patient’s presentation. Additionally, the recurrent abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss, along with the ileal thickening on computed tomography and an enterovesical fistula, could all be related to Crohn disease. Although similar to Crohn disease in some aspects, ulcerative colitis is unlikely because it does not affect the small intestine, is only a mucosal process, and does not cause fistulas. Although Behçet disease, a vasculitis that typically manifests with recurrent oral and genital ulcerations, is a possibility, it is unlikely in the absence of the ocular manifestations and arthritis that typically accompany this disease. The most likely diagnosis in this young man with evidence of terminal ileal thickening and an enterovesical fistula is Crohn disease.
After blood cultures were obtained, the patient was administered levofloxacin and metronidazole to cover enteric pathogens likely to cause UTIs in the setting of an enterovesical fistula. These organisms include gram-negative bacteria such as E coli, Klebsiella species, and Proteus species, as well as anaerobic organisms such as Pseudomonas and Clostridium species.
Which one of the following is the next best test to confirm the diagnosis?
No further evaluation; initiate treatment
Cystoscopy might demonstrate the fistulous opening but is unlikely to provide any further diagnostic information. Colonoscopy would be useful to assess the activity, extent, and severity of the disease. In addition, biopsy specimens could be obtained during colonoscopy, providing histologic confirmation of the diagnosis. Crohn disease can affect the upper gastrointestinal tract; however, this patient has no symptoms to suggest upper gastrointestinal tract involvement, making an upper endoscopy relatively low yield. Capsule endoscopy is unlikely to add further diagnostic information over that provided by enterography. Further, in a patient with active intestinal inflammation and obstructive symptoms (ie, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting), capsule retention proximal to the area of inflammation is a risk. Therapy for Crohn disease often requires the use of immunosuppressive medications; therefore, the diagnosis should be confirmed with tissue biopsy, and diagnoses of atypical infections and malignancy should be excluded before initiating treatment.
Colonoscopy showed a stricture in the region of hepatic flexure with associated mucosal edema, ulceration, and nodularity. There was a fistulous opening in the area. Biopsy specimens showed active chronic colitis with inflammatory polyps. Cytomegalovirus and acid-fast stains were negative.
Which one of the following is true about this patient’s disease?
Organ systems outside of the gastrointestinal tract are never affected
Once the patient recovers, he will develop lifelong immunity to the disease
He should abstain from cigarette smoking because it increases his risk of a disease flare
He should use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs regularly because they are protective against disease flares
This specific form of inflammatory bowel disease poses no increased risk of colon cancer
Approximately 25% of patients with inflammatory bowel disease develop extraintestinal manifestations.10 These manifestations include joint disease (eg, sacroiliitis, ankylosing spondylitis), ocular involvement (eg, iritis, episcleritis, uveitis), skin involvement (eg, erythema nodosum, pyoderma gangrenosum), and biliary involvement (eg, primary sclerosing cholangitis). These manifestations often correlate with the activity of the disease, with the exception of primary sclerosing cholangitis and ankylosing spondylitis. The clinical course of Crohn disease is highly variable, but most patients have recurrent episodes of symptomatic disease interspersed with periods of remission. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of Crohn disease flares as well as the severity of the disease. Thus, patients should be counseled to discontinue tobacco smoking. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use can precipitate disease flares, and patients should be counseled against their use as well. Patients with substantial colonic involvement by ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease are at increased risk of colon neoplasia after having the disease for 8 to 10 years. Colorectal surveillance is required in these patients.
Given the extent of disease and the colonic stricturing, a surgical consultation was obtained for this patient. He underwent repair of the colovesical fistula with resection of the terminal ileum, cecum, and ascending colon with ileo-ascending colonic anastomosis. After the operation, his symptoms completely resolved, and he was dismissed from the hospital 1 week later. Subsequently, he began receiving medical therapy for maintenance of Crohn remission.
Urinary Tract Infections in Men: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Factors That Put Men at Risk for UTIs
Besides age, there are additional factors that put you at a greater risk for getting a UTI if you’re a man, including:
- An enlarged prostate gland
- Kidney stones
- Bladder catheter insertion
- Any health condition that affects the immune system
Recognizing UTI Symptoms in Men
Some people don’t have any symptoms with a urinary tract infection, which usually entails an inflammation of the bladder (cystitis) and can also involve an infection of the lower or upper urinary tract, and — in more serious cases — the kidneys. In addition, not every man, woman, or child who gets a UTI has typical UTI symptoms, but most do exhibit at least one or more signs of infection. And when men do get UTIs, their symptoms are generally not too different from those that women experience. Common UTI symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- A strong, constant urge to urinate
- Releasing only small amounts of urine at a time
- Cloudy, bloody, or bad-smelling urine
- Suprapubic (lower abdominal) pain
- Burning or pain during urination
Any of these symptoms accompanied by lower back pain, fever, nausea, or chills could indicate a kidney infection — a serious problem that needs prompt treatment.
How UTIs in Men Are Diagnosed
A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria (or, less commonly, a virus or even a fungus) enters the urinary tract. In fact, according to the National Kidney Foundation, one particular bacteria, E. coli, causes 80 to 90 percent of all UTI cases.
Diagnosing a urinary tract infection in men is initially the same as it is for women, consisting of a urine culture. But because a UTI in a man is by definition always considered complicated, according to Dr. Trost, additional testing is usually necessary to determine why he got a UTI.
“This typically includes not only a urinary culture to confirm an infection, but also a special study to evaluate how much urine he leaves behind after urinating, and an imaging study, such as a CT scan, to evaluate for kidney stones or other anatomic abnormalities that may be causing this,” he explains.
If a man has recurrent infections or infections with the same organism, or UTI-like symptoms without a positive urine culture, then further testing may be necessary.
Any man who suspects he may have a UTI should see his doctor right away so that he can begin treatment as soon as possible.
How Urinary Tract Infections Are Treated in Men
Whether an infection affects a man or a woman, the treatment is the same: a round of antibiotics to kill the bacteria and get rid of UTI symptoms. For an uncomplicated infection, a woman typically needs to take an antibiotic for one to three days. For men, a longer course of at least seven days of antibiotics is required, says Trost.
How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections in Men
Younger men can’t do too much in terms of preventing a UTI, according to Trost. But older men can take a few steps to lower their risk. “One of the best defense mechanisms against UTIs is to completely empty the bladder every time you urinate,” says urologist Howard B. Goldman MD, professor and vice chair of quality and patient safety at the Glickman Urologic and Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
It’s also important to drink lots of fluids, especially water, every day. If you already have a UTI, drinking plenty of fluids can help push the bacteria out of the urinary tract — and in some very mild UTI cases, that could be enough to treat it. But if you notice any of the signs of a UTI, it’s still very important to head to your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment recommendation.
RELATED: Drinking More Water Leads to Fewer Urinary Tract Infections, Study Suggests
Without proper UTI treatment, the infection can quickly spread and become a serious — and sometimes even fatal — threat. So don’t brush off symptoms like frequent urination or a burning sensation when you urinate, and don’t assume that you can’t get a UTI just because you’re a man. It’s important that you get these symptoms checked out promptly, too.
Additional reporting by Barbara Kean.
A urinary tract infection (or UTI) is an infection in the kidney, ureters, bladder, or urethra, usually caused by bacteria. Even though UTIs are much more common in young women than in young men, it’s important for you to know that almost anyone can get one. It’s also important to realize that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can have similar symptoms as UTIs in guys. Read on to learn more about the urinary tract, the signs and symptoms a UTI, and how it’s treated.
What is the urinary tract?
The urinary tract includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The kidneys filter your blood, removing extra water and waste, and this process produces urine. This urine travels down from the kidneys to two tubes called ureters, and then gets stored in the bladder. When you urinate, the urine leaves the bladder through your urethra.
A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract. Most often, an infection occurs because bacteria that live in the bowel get into your bladder or kidneys and multiply in your urine.
The 3 main types of UTIs are:
- Bladder infection (cystitis): The most common type of UTI.
- Infection in the urethra (urethritis): Urethritis occurs when an infection affects the urethra – the tube that delivers urine from your bladder to the outside of the body. Urethritis can be caused by a UTI or an STI.
- Kidney infection (pyelonephritis): A kidney infection occurs when bacteria from the bladder make their way into the kidneys. This is a more serious infection, and can cause a high fever, chills, back pain, and vomiting.
What are the most common symptoms of a UTI?
The most common symptoms of a UTI include:
- Urinating (peeing) more than usual
- Having an intense urge to urinate, even if nothing comes out
- Any kind of pain* or burning while urinating
- Urine that has a bad smell
- Fever or chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the lower abdomen (belly)
*Pain or burning while urinating is also a symptom of an STI like chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, and trichomoniasis. If you’re experiencing this symptom, call your health care provider right away, and get tested.
Bladder infections (in men) can also lead to an infection of the prostate gland (where fluid that contains sperm is made). Symptoms of a prostate infection also usually include: a high fever, chills, muscle aches and trouble peeing.
What factors effect someone’s risk for getting a UTI?
Some people are more likely to get a urinary tract infection. Factors that increase a person’s risk include:
- Having sex often or with a new partner
- Having anal sex
- Not being circumcised
- A recent bladder or kidney infection (within the past 12 months)
- Using spermicide to prevent pregnancy
What should I do if I think I have a UTI?
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to call your health care provider (HCP) immediately and make an appointment. Don’t ignore your symptoms; they will likely get worse. If left untreated, a kidney infection can become serious and cause permanent damage to your kidneys.
How can my health care provider tell if I have a UTI?
Your health care provider will ask you about your symptoms and whether or not you’ve had a UTI in the past. Your HCP may also ask questions about your sexual history, including condom use, how many sexual partners you’ve had, and whether you’ve had anal intercourse. These questions are important because a guy can get an STI through sexual intercourse and the symptoms are similar.
You will also be asked to give a urine sample, as a UTI is usually diagnosed by a urine test that checks for bacteria in your pee. Your health care provider will ask you to pee into a cup. Your urine sample may be tested first with a “dipstick test” (a strip of paper that has been treated with a certain chemical that checks for white blood cells, protein, and glucose). The result of the dipstick test is available right away.
It is likely that your urine sample will also be sent to the lab for further testing. It usually takes about 1-3 days to get the results of the urine culture back. Your HCP will be able to tell if you have a UTI based on your symptoms and the result of the urine test. If you are sexually active, or your health care provider is concerned that your symptoms are from another cause, such as chlamydia, herpes or another STI, he or she will test you for STIs.
What is the treatment for a UTI?
If you have a UTI, your HCP will prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria that are causing the infection. You will likely have to take the antibiotics for 3-5 days (possibly longer), but the length of time can vary depending on how bad the infection is. It’s extremely important to take ALL of the medicine that your HCP has prescribed, even if you start feeling better. If you don’t finish the antibiotics, the infection could come back.
Your HCP may also recommend that you drink a lot of water and empty your bladder frequently while you have a UTI. This is important for helping your bladder clean itself and will cause you to pee more often.
If you have bladder spasms (cramping pain that comes and goes in the lower part of your abdomen), your HCP may prescribe medicine to help with the pain. Some medicines that help treat bladder spasms may turn your urine an orange color. This is a completely normal side effect and only lasts as long as you are taking the medicine.
Is there anything I can do to prevent getting a UTI?
It’s not easy to prevent getting a UTI, but there are some things you can do, including:
- Drinking a lot of water each day so that you keep your bladder working to cleanse itself.
- Urinate frequently: If you have to pee, don’t hold it in!
If you’re concerned about UTIs, here’s a tip on how to bring it up with your provider: “It hurts when I pee”.
Urinary Tract Infections in Boys
Urinary tract infections in boys (UTI) is the result of bacteria getting into the bladder and staying there. E. Coli, responsible for over 75% of UTIs, doubles every 20 minutes in the bladder. That means if there are 100 bacteria of E. Coli in the bladder and you wait three hours to go to the bathroom you will have over 50,000 bacteria in your bladder. The more bacteria in the bladder and the longer it stays there, the more likely you are to get a UTI.
There are many things that can be done to both treat urinary tract infections in boys and prevent them in the future.
Causes of Urinary Tract Infections in Boys
- Poor water intake
- Improper genital hygiene
- Infrequent voiding
Preventing Urinary Tract Infections in Boys
Increase Water Intake
Children should drink one cup of water (equal to eight ounces) for each year they are old. For example, if a child is 4 years old, he should drink four cups of water each day. Once a child reaches 8 years old, he should be drinking close to two liters (a little over eight cups) per day and stay at this amount into adulthood. Increasing water dilutes the urine making it more difficult for bacteria to grow. Monitoring the color of urine in the toilet is a good way to ensure good water intake. Urine should be clear to very pale yellow at each void. Darker urine tells us that the child needs more water.
Children should urinate about seven times each day–that’s every 2 hours while awake–even if he doesn’t feel like he needs to go. Children who hold their urine and wait until they absolutely have to go to the bathroom tend to be at a higher risk for UTIs and other bladder dysfunction problems.
If the child is uncircumcised, he should practice proper genital hygiene. This means pushing his foreskin back, so he can clean the head of the penis when he is in the shower or bath, just like he would clean any other part of his body. He must also return the foreskin back over the head of the penis once cleaning is complete. It is also important that he pulls his foreskin all the way back before urinating and then pulls it back over when he is done. Not doing this could allow urine to get stuck under the foreskin. When urine gets trapped under the foreskin, bacteria can form and eventually get into the urethra and bladder.
Get Going Everyday
Children should have a soft, easy-to-pass bowel movement every day. By increasing water, fiber (dried fruit, fresh fruit and vegetables) and activity, many children can find constipation relief. If this is not enough, then adding Miralax® (as directed) may help him go every day. Stool is where most of the E. Coli that causes UTIs comes from.
Treating Urinary Tract Infections in Boys
Children may be given a prescription for prophylactic antibiotics. It is a very low dose of antibiotics that they should take every day, as prescribed, to help keep their urine sterile. It is important not to take medication that has not been prescribed for you specifically, please never share your medication with anyone.
CHOC Children’s Urology Center have experts to effectively diagnose, treat and create prevention plans. If the child has an infection, our staff may also perform some or all of the following studies:
- Renal ultrasound
- Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG)
Urinary Tract Infection in Men
What Is It?
Published: March, 2019
Urinary tract infections involve the parts of the body — the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra — that produce urine and carry it out of the body. Urinary tract infections often are classified into two types based on their location in the urinary tract:
- Lower tract infections — These include cystitis (bladder infection) and urethritis (infection of the urethra). Lower urinary tract infections commonly are caused by intestinal bacteria, which enter and contaminate the urinary tract from below, usually by spreading from the skin to the urethra and then to the bladder. Urethritis also may be caused by microorganisms that are transmitted through sexual contact, including gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Another form of male urinary infection is prostatitis which is an inflammation of the prostate.
- Upper tract infections — These involve the ureters and kidneys and include pyelonephritis (kidney infection). Upper tract infections often occur because bacteria have traveled upward in the urinary tract from the bladder to the kidney or because bacteria carried in the bloodstream have collected in the kidney.
Most cases of urinary tract infections occur in women. Of those that occur in men, relatively few affect younger men. In men older than 50, the prostate gland (a gland near the bottom of the bladder, close to the urethra) can enlarge and block the flow of urine from the bladder. This condition is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. This condition can prevent the bladder from emptying completely, which increases the likelihood that bacteria will grow and trigger an infection. Cystitis is more common in men who practice anal intercourse and in those who are not circumcised. Other factors that increase the risk of urinary infections include an obstruction, such as that caused by a partial blockage of the urethra known as a stricture, and non-natural substances, such as rubber catheter tubes (as may be inserted to relieve a blockage in the urethra).
To continue reading this article, you must login.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor’s visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online “
Urinary Tract Infection
What causes urinary tract infections?
UTIs are caused by bacteria (germs) that get into the urinary tract. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Any part of your urinary tract can become infected, but bladder and urethra infections are the most common.
Why do women get urinary tract infections more often than men?
Women tend to get urinary tract infections more often than men because bacteria can reach the bladder more easily in women. The urethra (the opening to your urinary tract) is shorter in women than in men, so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel.
The urethra is located near the rectum in women. Bacteria from the rectum can easily travel up the urethra and cause infections. Bacteria from the rectum is more likely to get into the urethra if you wipe from back to front (instead of front to back) after a bowel movement. Be sure to teach children how to wipe correctly.
Having sex may also cause urinary tract infections in women because bacteria can be pushed into the urethra. Using a diaphragm can lead to infections because diaphragms push against the urethra and make it harder to completely empty your bladder. The urine that stays in the bladder is more likely to grow bacteria and cause infections.
Frequent urinary tract infections may be caused by changes in the bacteria in the vagina. Antibacterial vaginal douches, spermicides, and certain oral antibiotics may cause changes in vaginal bacteria. Avoid using these items, if possible. Menopause can also cause changes in vaginal bacteria that increase your risk for urinary tract infection. Taking estrogen usually corrects this problem but may not be for everyone.
What are other possible causes of painful urination?
A painful burning feeling when you urinate is often a sign of a urinary tract infection (sometimes also called a bladder infection). However, painful urination can occur even if you don’t have an infection. Certain drugs, like some used in cancer chemotherapy, may inflame the bladder. Something pressing against the bladder (like an ovarian cyst) or a kidney stone stuck near the entrance to the bladder can also cause painful urination.
Painful urination can also be caused by vaginal infection or irritation. You might be sensitive to chemicals in products such as douches, vaginal lubricants, soaps, scented toilet paper, or contraceptive foams or sponges. If it hurts to urinate after you’ve used these products, you’re probably sensitive to them.
Do I need to see a doctor?
Yes. Painful urination can be a symptom of a more serious problem. You should tell your doctor about your symptoms and how long you’ve had them. Tell your doctor about any medical conditions you have, such as diabetes mellitus or AIDS, because these could affect your body’s response to infection. Tell your doctor about any known abnormality in your urinary tract, and if you are or might be pregnant. Tell your doctor if you’ve had any procedures or surgeries on your urinary tract. He or she also need to know if you were recently hospitalized (less than 1 month ago) or stayed in a nursing home.
If your doctor thinks your pain may be from vaginal inflammation, he or she may wipe the lining of your vagina with a swab to collect mucus. The mucus will be looked at under a microscope to see if it has yeast or other organisms. If your pain is from an infection in your urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder), your doctor may swab it to test for bacteria. If an infection can’t be found, your doctor may suggest other tests.
This material must not be used for commercial purposes, or in any hospital or medical facility. Failure to comply may result in legal action.
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Sep 24, 2019.
- Care Notes
What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
A UTI is caused by bacteria that get inside your urinary tract. Most bacteria that enter your urinary tract come out when you urinate. If the bacteria stay in your urinary tract, you may get an infection. Your urinary tract includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in your kidneys, and it flows from the ureters to the bladder. Urine leaves the bladder through the urethra. A UTI is more common in your lower urinary tract, which includes your bladder and urethra.
What increases my risk for a UTI?
- A urinary catheter or self-catheterization
- Incontinence (not able to control when you urinate)
- Urinary tract problems, such as narrowing, kidney stones, or not being able to empty your bladder completely
- Not being circumcised
- Past UTI or urinary tract surgery
- Elderly age
- Obesity or diabetes
What are the signs and symptoms of a UTI?
- Urinating more often than usual, leaking urine, or waking from sleep to urinate
- Pain or burning when you urinate
- Pain or pressure in your lower abdomen or back
- Urine that smells bad
- Blood in your urine
How is a UTI diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms. Your provider may press on your abdomen, sides, and back to check if you feel pain. Your urine will be tested for bacteria that may be causing your infection. If you have UTIs often, you may need other tests to find the cause.
How is a UTI treated?
- Antibiotics help fight a bacterial infection.
- Medicines may be given to decrease pain and burning when you urinate. They will also help decrease the feeling that you need to urinate often. These medicines will make your urine orange or red.
What can I do to prevent a UTI?
- Empty your bladder often. Urinate and empty your bladder as soon as you feel the need. Do not hold your urine for long periods of time.
- Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You may need to drink more liquids than usual to help flush out the bacteria. Do not drink alcohol, caffeine, or citrus juices. These can irritate your bladder and increase your symptoms. Your healthcare provider may recommend cranberry juice to help prevent a UTI.
- Urinate after you have sex. This can help flush out bacteria passed during sex.
- Do pelvic muscle exercises often. Pelvic muscle exercises may help you start and stop urinating. Strong pelvic muscles may help you empty your bladder easier. Squeeze these muscles tightly for 5 seconds like you are trying to hold back urine. Then relax for 5 seconds. Gradually work up to squeezing for 10 seconds. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions a day, or as directed.
When should I seek immediate care?
- You are urinating very little or not at all.
- You have a high fever with shaking chills.
- You have side or back pain that gets worse.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You have a mild fever.
- You do not feel better after 2 days of taking antibiotics.
- You are vomiting.
- You have new symptoms, such as blood or pus in your urine.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2019 Information is for End User’s use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
Learn more about Urinary Tract Infection in Men
- Bladder Infection
- Urinary Tract Infection
IBM Watson Micromedex
- Interstitial Cystitis
- Kidney Infection
- Nonspecific Urethritis in Men
- Urinary Tract Infection in Children
- Urinary Tract Infection in Women
- Difficulty Passing Urine
- Loss of Control of Urine in Women
- Painful or Frequent Urination in Men
Español: Infección de las vías urinarias
Do you have pain or burning when you urinate? You might have a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Antibiotics are needed to treat UTIs. Your doctor can determine if you have a UTI and what antibiotic is needed.
Urinary Tract Infection
A female urinary tract showing the bladder and urethra, demonstrating how bacteria from the skin or rectum can travel up the urethra.
A female urinary tract showing the bladder and urethra, demonstrating how bacteria from the skin or rectum can travel up the urethra.
download iconDownload Imageimage icon
What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
UTIs are common infections that happen when bacteria, often from the skin or rectum, enter the urethra, and infect the urinary tract. The infections can affect several parts of the urinary tract, but the most common type is a bladder infection (cystitis).
Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) is another type of UTI. They’re less common, but more serious than bladder infections.
Some people are at higher risk of getting a UTI. UTIs are more common in women and girls because their urethras are shorter and closer to the rectum, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.
Other factors that can increase the risk of UTIs:
- A previous UTI
- Sexual activity, and especially a new sexual partner
- Changes in the bacteria that live inside the vagina (vaginal flora), for example caused by menopause or use of spermicides
- Age (older adults and young children are more likely to get UTIs)
- Structural problems in the urinary tract, such as prostate enlargement.
- Poor hygiene, particularly in children who are potty-training
Symptoms of a bladder infection can include:
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Frequent urination
- Feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder
- Bloody urine
- Pressure or cramping in the groin or lower abdomen
Symptoms of a kidney infection can include:
- Lower back pain or pain in the side of your back
- Nausea or vomiting
Younger children may not be able to tell you about UTI symptoms they are having. While fever is the most common sign of UTI in infants and toddlers, most children with fever do not have a UTI. Talk to a doctor if you are concerned that your child may have a UTI.
baby icon See a doctor right away if your child is younger than 3 months old and has a fever of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher.
When to Seek Medical Care
See a doctor if you have symptoms of a UTI. While most cases of UTIs can be treated outside the hospital, some cases may need to be treated in the hospital.
Please see your doctor for any symptom that is severe or concerning.
Your doctor will determine if you have a UTI by asking about symptoms, doing a physical examination, and ordering urine tests, if needed.
UTIs are caused by bacteria and are treated with antibiotics. However, any time you take antibiotics, they can cause side effects. Side effects can range from minor reactions, such as a rash, to very serious health problems, such as antibiotic-resistant infections or C. diff infection, which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death. Call your doctor if you develop any side effects while taking your antibiotic.
Sometimes other illnesses, such as sexually transmitted diseases, have symptoms similar to UTIs. Your doctor can determine if a UTI or different illness is causing your symptoms and determine the best treatment.
How to Feel Better
Antibiotics will usually treat a UTI. If you are prescribed antibiotics:
- Take them exactly as your doctor tells you.
- Do not share your antibiotics with others.
- Do not save them for later. Talk to your pharmacist about safely discarding leftover medicines.
Talk with your doctor and pharmacist if you have any questions about your antibiotics.
Drink plenty of water or other fluids. Your doctor might also recommend medicine to help lessen the pain or discomfort.
You can help prevent UTIs by doing the following:
- Urinate after sexual activity.
- Stay well hydrated and urinate regularly.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Minimize douching, sprays, or powders in the genital area.
- Teach girls when potty training to wipe front to back.