Acute Care Information and Resources

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections that can occur in any part of the urinary system, including the bladder, kidneys, and urethra. The most common infections occur in the lower part of the urinary system, the bladder, and urethra.[1]

Common Symptoms: UTIs don’t always produce signs and symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they include a strong urgency to urinate, a burning sensation during urination, bladder and pelvic pain or discomfort, a frequent need to urinate with only a small amount of urine, pressure in the pelvic area or back, urine with a strong odor, and cloudy or dark urine.[2] UTIs can become dangerous if the infection spreads to the kidneys. Common signs of this are if blood appears in the urine and if there is upper back pain or any associated nausea, chills, or vomiting. If any of this occurs, be sure to seek medical attention right away.

Causes: UTIs are caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract, most commonly fecal bacteria and/or E-Coli from the digestive system. Intercourse can introduce bacteria to the urinary tract as well as the use of barrier birth control methods (diaphragms, sponges), adult toys, lubricants, feminine hygiene products, and spermicides. Catheter use is also a common UTI trigger, as well as certain sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia which can irritate the urinary tract. Women are at a much higher risk of developing UTIs due to their anatomy, having a shorter urethra which is in closer proximity to the anus.[3] However, men can also develop UTIs, particularly those who practice anal sex.

Treatment: A doctor or gynecologist is likely to take a urine sample and prescribe antibiotics if a UTI is diagnosed. It’ll be important to drink plenty of water to flush the bacteria from the urethra. Drinking cranberry juice and/or taking cranberry extract supplements is considered a great preventative measure for UTIs, though doctors would not recommend treating an existing UTI solely with cranberry products.

Though getting a UTI doesn’t necessarily correlate with poor hygiene, maintaining good hygiene is still important when it comes to UTI prevention, especially after passing watery stools or experiencing diarrhea. It is particularly important for women to wipe from front to back while using the restroom to prevent the carrying of fecal bacteria towards the urethra. If the use of barrier birth control methods is causing frequent UTIs, switching to a hormonal birth control method may be a better option. Emptying your bladder right after sexual intercourse and avoiding the use of irritating products (feminine hygiene products, lubricants, adult toys, etc.) can also help. [4]