What is a Urinary Tract Infection?A urinary tract infection, or UTI, happens when bacteria enter the body through the opening where urine is normally released. The bacteria infect the lining of the urethra and bladder, turning them red and inflamed. This causes pain in the abdomen or pelvic area, a burning sensation during urination, a sense of urgency about going to the bathroom, frequent urination, and urine that smells bad and looks cloudy, or even contains traces of blood. If the urinary tract infection is severe, it may travel all the way to the kidneys, a more serious kind of UTI called pyelonephritis. Patients with this kidney infection might have blood in their urine, feel back pain, and develop a fever. Urinary tract infections are extremely common: 12% of all men and 40-50% of all women will have a urinary tract infection during their lifetime. They are more common in women because women have shorter urethras, so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel from the outside of the body to the bladder and cause an infection. Some people also have urethras that are an unusual shape or have an obstruction in the urethra that makes getting a UTI more likely. Also, certain chronic illnesses like diabetes weaken the immune system, so any bacteria in the body are more likely to cause an infection. A urinary tract infection can be diagnosed very quickly by a doctor. A sample of urine can be examined under a microscope for the presence of bacteria or white blood cells. There are also diagnostic strips that can be used to test a urine sample without the need for a microscope. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment is a course of oral antibiotics, and most patients feel better within just a few days. There are some things that patients can do themselves to help reduce the risk of getting a urinary tract infection in the future. Stay well hydrated, wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom, wear breathable cotton undergarments, and don't hold it in when you feel the urge to go.
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