A UTI is a common infection that usually occurs when bacteria enter the opening of the urethra and multiply in the urinary system. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, the ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder, and the urethra, which is the tube that empties urine from the bladder. Typically, the connection of the ureters at the bladder helps prevent urine from backing up into the kidneys. The flow of urine through the urethra also helps to eliminate bacteria, which helps reduce the risk for urinary tract infections, but most infections involve the bladder and the urethra.
Some UTIs have no symptoms, or the symptoms may be overlooked if you have other conditions that cause the same issues, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia in men. Typically, however, UTI symptoms include:
The reasons for the higher incidence of UTIs in women are not fully known, but doctors suspect the much shorter female urethra plays a role. The condition is relatively rare in boys and young men. Twenty percent of women in the United States develop a UTI and 20 percent of those have a recurrence. UTIs in children are more common in those under the age of two.
Antibiotics are the baseline treatment for simple UTIs. Before prescribing the correct treatment, your provider will check your urine for the type and amount of bacteria present, and adjust your antibiotic medication accordingly. Depending on the type of infection and the antibiotic prescribed, the treatment may last from 3-10 days.
If you experience UTIs frequently, your doctor may consider a low-dose antibiotic treatment regimen that lasts six months or longer. A severe infection may require a hospital stay and treatment with IV antibiotics. UTIs that spread from the lower urinary tract to the kidneys can cause serious complications, so it’s important to have any UTI treated quickly and appropriately.