Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) – Symptoms and Management

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a microbial infection that effects the urinary system causing severe pain and discomfort in the pelvis along with other urinary symptoms. This is a very common complaint and can involve any part of the urinary system including the kidneys, bladder, ureters, or the urethra. Although urinary tract infections are prevalent in females but males can get affected too.

Symptoms of UTI

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection are related to the part of the system affected. The lower UTIs involve urethra and bladder, while the upper UTIs involve the kidneys and ureters.

Symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection are:

  • Pain in pelvis in females
  • Flank pain
  • Rectal pain in males
  • Feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Burning micturition
  • Urgency of urination
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Decreased urine volume
  • Blood in urine
  • Cola coloured urine
  • Hazy or cloudy urine
  • Urine with a strong odour
  • Painful sex
  • Fatigue

Symptoms of an upper urinary tract infection are severe and demand immediate medical assistance:

  • Flank pain and tenderness
  • Pain in the back
  • Fever and chills
  • Hypothermia with temperature below 36 degrees celsius
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mental confusion
upper and lower urinary tract infection

Causes of UTI

UTI occurs due to the presence of bacteria in the urine. This usually happens when bacteria inhabiting the area around rectum and vagina get into the urine through urethra and travel upwards to the bladder. The infection can spread as the bacteria travel up to the ureters and enter the kidneys to infect them. Urinary system is built to keep such microbial invaders away but oftentimes, due to a fault in the defence system, these bacteria can take hold and cause a full-blown infection anywhere in the urinary tract. The most common organism that causes UTI is E.coli, this bacteria inhabits the GA tract and can gain entry into the urinary tract due to close proximity of anus to urethra, specially in females.

UTIs can also occur due to conditions such as Kidney stones, stroke, trauma, or any other cause that can delay bladder emptying or effects urinary outflow.

Types of UTIs

Urinary tract infections can affect any part of your urinary system and cause different signs and symptoms some of these are given below:

  • Pyelonephritis: Refers to infection of kidneys, causes pain in back or flanks, high fever, chills, and vomiting.
  • Cystitis: Infection of bladder causes pelvic pressure, urination problems, and blood in urine.
  • Urethritis: Infection involving urethras, causes discharge in urine and burning micturition.

Risk factors

UTIs can affect any one, at any age but there are some factors which render some people more at risk to develop it that others:

  • Females; due to close proximity of anus and urethra and a shorter urethra
  • A history of urinary tract infection
  • Urinary tract obstruction due to kidney stones, prostate enlargement, or a blocked catheter
  • Prolonged use of catheter
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Females who use diaphragm as a contraceptive option
  • Diabetics with poor control as it decreases the immunity
  • Children with structural abnormalities of urinary system

Complications of UTI

Urinary tract infections are a common complaint and are almost always treated on time but if left untreated, they can cause serious complications, such as:

  • Kidney damage due to an acute or chronic kidney infection
  • Recurrent infections, specially in females
  • Increased risk of premature birth in pregnant females
  • Urethral narrowing in males
  • Sepsis

How to prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI) ?

Urinary tract infection can be easily prevented by following some tips:

  • Avoid holding in your urine and empty the bladder as soon as you feel the urge to
  • Wipe from front to back after using toilet
  • Avoid bathing and prefer showering
  • Douching should be completely prevented
  • Keep your genital area dry and moisture free
  • Urinate after sex to flush out any microorganism that may have gained entry into your urethra
  • Clean your genital area before having sex
  • Drink plenty of fluids so that you can regularly urinate
  • Women should change sanitary pads frequently
  • Avoid using scented hygiene products in the genital area
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Use water-based lubricant during sex and completely avoid any sort of spermicide

Management of UTI

Urinary tract infection should be treated as soon as possible to avoid spread of infection and limit the severity of symptoms.


Your doctor will take a detailed history of your symptoms and request a few investigations to diagnose a UTI:

  • Urine analysis to look for white blood cells and red blood cells in the urine
  • Urine culture to determine the type of bacteria
  • Ultrasound to look for stones or rule out other possible conditions
  • Intravenous pyelogram to look for an obstruction or perforation
  • Cystoscopy to see inside the bladder from urethra to find out the extent of damage
  • CT scan for a detailed and precise look at the condition


Treatment of UTI is dependent on the causative agent and needs the test results to to begin with. Some options are:

  • Antibiotics to fight against the organism, oral antibiotics can treat a lower track UTI but upper tract UTIs are severe and require intravenous antibiotics for fast recovery.
  • Cranberry juice prevents E.coli growth
  • For pain and discomfort nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory can be given
  • Antipyretics can help with high fever
  • Topical vaginal estrogen therapy is recommended to postmenopausal women

Lifestyle changes and home remedies

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Wipe yourself from front to back
  • Drink cranberry juice
  • Avoid scented hygiene products
  • Change your method of birth control
  • Using heating pad to decrease discomfort and minimise the bladder pressure

When to consult a doctor?

UTI is not a life threatening condition but should be e treated as early as possible. If you begin to notice any of the above mentioned symptoms you should consult your doctor and start the treatment. If you you already have a urinary tract infection, your symptoms begin deteriorating, call your physician and look for an alternate treatment plan.


How long does UTI last?

Most of the times, the symptoms go away within 2 to 3 days but in case of an upper urinary tract infection it may take a week or longer than that.

How can I get instant pain relief from UTI?

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Drink cranberry juice
  • Use a heating pad
  • Try over the counter pain relievers

What is UTI more common in females?

UTI is more common in females because of a smaller urethra and close proximity of anus and urethra.

Last medically reviewed on September 6, 2021.