Urinary tract infections (UTIs) typically occur when bacteria from the rectal area
enter through the
travel up the
urinary tract to the bladder or kidneys.
Typically, UTIs cause urinary symptoms, such as pain or burning during
urination. Some mild bladder infections may go away on their own within a
couple of days. Most UTIs clear up quickly with antibiotics. The amount of
time required to cure the infection and the need for urine tests will vary with
the location (bladder or kidneys), frequency, and seriousness of the infection.
Kidney infections and UTIs that are
complicated by other factors require longer
Complications of UTIs are not common but do occur.
Serious complications can include permanent kidney damage and widespread
infection (sepsis), which can be life-threatening. The risk is
greater if the infection is not treated or if the infection does not respond to
Some people have many UTIs. They are often new infections (recurrent UTIs), but they can also be the same infection coming back (a relapse). A rapid relapse
usually means that treatment failed or there is another problem affecting the
urinary tract (not just the infection).
UTIs in women
UTIs are most common in
young to middle-aged women. They occur more often in women than in men
- The rectum is closer to the urine outlet (urethra) in women than in men. This allows
bacteria present in stool to enter the urinary tract more
- The urethra is shorter in women than in men, which allows
bacteria to reach the bladder more easily.
- In women, sexual
intercourse can push bacteria into the urethra.
- The fluid produced
by a man's
prostate gland helps kill bacteria in his urinary
Some women have an ongoing problem with UTIs. If a woman has more
than two bladder infections in 6 months or more than three infections in a
year, she is said to have recurrent UTIs. Recurrent UTIs usually get better
with extended antibiotic treatment. But infection may recur as soon as the
woman stops taking antibiotics. For this reason, doctors usually recommend preventive antibiotics.
UTIs in men
Most urinary tract infections in men are caused by bacteria.
UTIs in older men are more often related to
prostate problems. This can make them more difficult
to treat. Having an
enlarged prostate, which is common in older men, can
limit the body's ability to pass urine. Repeated UTIs may indicate
epididymitis, or another urinary tract problem.
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