How do you get a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urethra, bladder, ureters or kidneys. According to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, most urinary tract infections are caused by the bacteria E. coli. Some infections may also be caused by chlamydia and mycoplasma.

A UTI occurs when bacteria enter the opening of the urethra and move up the urinary tract. Normally the body flushes away the bacteria through urination, but if there is an overwhelming amount of bacteria or the urinary tract is not functioning properly, the bacteria can stay in the tract and grow.

The urethra typically comes into contact with E. coli through sexual contact, when there is blockage in the urinary tract such as a kidney stone or enlarged prostate, or when some part of the urinary tract is irritated.

Conditions that impair the immune system such as diabetes can potentially make a person more susceptible to UTIs. Except among elderly populations, women are more likely than men to get a UTI, .

Symptoms of a urinary tract include pain or pressure in the lower abdomen, a burning sensation during urination, mild fever or urine that is cloudy, smelly or has traces of blood. If you suspect you have a UTI, your doctor will likely order a urine screen to check for the presence of bacteria.

For a healthy person, a UTI in the lower tract may be successfully resisted by the body's natural immunological defenses and go away after a few days. In most cases, urinary tract infections are easily treated with antibiotics, though the exact regimen may vary according to the seriousness of the infection.

The National Library of Medicine suggests the following tips for avoiding urinary tract infections:

  • Wash the genital area daily, as well as before and after sexual activity
  • Drink plenty of fluids and don’t hold it if you need to use the restroom - urination helps to flush bacteria from the system
  • Avoid feminine hygiene sprays and douches since they can irritate the vaginal area making it more susceptible to infection
  • Vitamin C and unsweetened cranberry juice may help prevent a UTI, while coffee, alcohol and the use of spermicidal creams may increase the chance of infection.

You should visit your doctor immediately if you suspect a UTI. Depending on the severity of the infection, your doctor might recommend a visit to an urologist which is a doctor who specializes in the urinary tract of men and women.

You can search for a highly rated Cincinnati urologist by signing in to Angie’s List today.


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