A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system — your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract — the bladder and the urethra. Women are at greater risk of developing a UTI than men. Infection limited to your bladder can be painful and annoying.
Urinary tract infections don’t always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do they may include:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate.
- A burning sensation when urinating.
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine.
- Urine that appears cloudy.
- Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored — a sign of blood in the urine.
- Strong-smelling urine.
- Pelvic pain, in women — especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone.
Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. Although the urinary system is designed to keep out such microscopic invaders, these defenses sometimes fail. When that happens, bacteria may take hold and grow into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract.
You can take these steps to reduce your risk of urinary tract infections:
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Drinking water helps dilute your urine and ensures that you’ll urinate more frequently — allowing bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract before an infection can begin.
- Wipe from front to back. Doing so after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
- Drink cranberry juice. Although studies are not conclusive that cranberry juice prevents UTIs, it is likely not harmful.
- Empty your bladder soon after intercourse. Also, drink a full glass of water to help flush bacteria.
- Avoid potentially irritating feminine products. Using deodorant sprays or douches and powders, in the genital area can irritate the urethra.
- Change your birth control method. Diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth.
*Doctors typically treat urinary tract infections with antibiotics. But you can take steps to reduce your chances of getting a UTI in the first place*