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Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections or UTIs are infections in any part of the urinary tract. They are a common health problem that affects millions of people each year. Women are especially prone to UTIs.

A UTI may affect any part of the urinary tract causing:

  • Urethritis. This is an infection of the urethra. This is the hollow tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
  • Cystitis. This is a bladder infection caused by germs that have moved up from the urethra.
  • Pyelonephritis. This kidney infection is most often caused by an infection that has spread up the urinary tract, or by a blockage in the urinary tract. A blockage causes urine to back up into the ureters and kidneys. The ureters are the hollow tubes that drain urine from the kidneys into the bladder.
  • Abscess. A collection of pus along the course of the urinary tract.

What causes urinary tract infections?

Normal urine is sterile and contains fluids, salts, and waste products. It does not contain bacteria, viruses, or fungi. A UTI happens when germs, most often bacteria from the digestive tract, get into the opening of the urethra and start to multiply.

Most UTIs are caused by E. coli bacteria, which normally live in the colon.

What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?

These are the most common symptoms of a UTI:

  • Frequent urination
  • Pain or burning when passing urine
  • Fever
  • Urine looks dark, cloudy, or reddish in color. (Blood may be present in the urine.)
  • Urine smells bad
  • Feeling pain even when not urinating
  • Tiredness
  • Pain in the belly (abdomen) area below the bellybutton, or in the back or side, below the ribs
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Have a strong urge to urinate, but only a small amount of urine is passed
  • Women may feel an uncomfortable pressure above the pubic bone
  • Older adults can have a change in their mental state, such as confusion or severe lethargy

The symptoms of a UTI may look like other conditions or health problems. Always see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

For more information on SBL Women's Health, or to schedule an appointment, call 217-258-4030.

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