What Are Signs of a UTI? A Guide

A urinary tract infection or UTI is a common infection of the urinary system. The urinary system includes the bladder, kidneys, urethra, and ureters.

Women are more prone to this type of infection than men. One in two women will have a urinary tract infection in their lifetime. Many women have repeat infections.

It’s important to know the symptoms of UTI in women. What are the signs of a UTI? Let’s take a look.

What Are the Signs of a UTI?

Urinary tract infections don’t always present with signs and symptoms. But when they do, here’s what to look for:

  • A burning feeling when urinating
  • A frequent or intense urge to urinate
  • Passing very little urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Dark-colored or bloody urine
  • Urine with a strong odor
  • Pain or pressure in your lower abdomen or back
  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you think you may have a UTI, contact your doctor. If you do have an infection, it’s important to begin treatment as soon as possible.

UTIs can become more serious if they’re not treated. Your doctor may order a urine culture to determine if you have a UTI. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic if you have an infection. 

What Are the Types of UTIs?

A UTI can occur in different parts of the urinary tract. Each type of infection has a different name depending on where its located.

Cystitis is an infection of the bladder. Symptoms may include the urge to urinate, painful urination, cloudy or bloody urine, and belly pain.

Urethritis is an infection of the urethra. Symptoms may include discharge and burning when you urinate.

Pyelonephritis is an infection of the kidneys. Symptoms may include fever, chills, upper back or side pain, nausea, or vomiting.

Causes of a UTI

You may have heard that it’s a good idea to wipe from front to back when you use the bathroom. That’s because the urethra is close to the anus, and you want to prevent bacteria from spreading to the urethra.

If bacteria enters your urethra, it can travel up your bladder and to your kidneys if left untreated. Women’s urethras are shorter than men’s. This makes it easier for bacteria to travel to the bladder. 

Women who are sexually active tend to have more UTIs than those who are not. Changing sexual partners also increases your risk.

Women who use diaphragms or spermicidal agents for birth control may be at higher risk for UTIs. Post-menopausal women are at higher risk for UTIs due to a decline in circulating hormones.

Some women are more genetically inclined to get UTIs. The shape of the urinary tract can increase the chance for infection as well. 

Women who have diabetes may be more at risk for UTIs. A weakened immune system can make it harder to fight off infection. 

Other conditions can also put you more at risk for a UTI. These include:

  • Hormonal issues
  • Kidney stones
  • Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Conditions that affect urine flow

Testing and Diagnosis of UTI

If you are experiencing any UTI symptoms, go see your doctor. A simple urine test is usually all that’s needed to test for a UTI.

If you are getting frequent UTIs, there could be a problem with your urinary tract. Your doctor might order an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan.

Your doctor may want to take a closer look inside your urethra and bladder with a long, flexible tube called a cystoscope.

UTI Treatments Available to You

If you have a UTI, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection. If you do receive an antibiotic, be sure to take all your medication as prescribed.

It’s important to drink plenty of water. This helps flush the bacteria from your body.

Your doctor may prescribe a pain killer. Using a heating pad may also help with discomfort.

Many people drink cranberry juice to prevent or treat UTIs. The juice contains tannins that may prevent E. coli from sticking to the walls of the bladder. 

Although cranberry juice may help prevent infection, research hasn’t shown this popular remedy as a way to reduce or treat infections. Research is ongoing into ways to treat and prevent UTIs, including the use of vaccines and immune boosters.

Chronic UTIs: What to Know

Some women get UTIs over and over again. In most cases, different strains of bacteria are to blame. But some types of bacteria can invade your cells and multiply.

This can result in a colony of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in your body. The bacteria can travel from the cells and reinvade your urinary tract, causing chronic UTIs.

If you have three or more UTIs in a year, talk to your doctor. There are treatments for recurring UTIs you can try.

Preventing a UTI

Anyone can get a UTI. But there are steps you can take to lower your risk of contracting one. Here are some tips:

  • Drink lots of water 
  • Limit alcohol, caffeine, and citrus juices
  • Urinate before and after intercourse
  • Don’t hold urine in for long periods of time
  • practice good hygiene. Wipe from front to back
  • Limit the use of feminine products like douches, sprays, and powders 
  • Change tampons and pads frequently during your menstrual cycle
  • Drink unsweetened cranberry juice
  • Talk to your doctor about the best birth control method for you
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Wear cotton underwear

Recognizing the Symptoms of a UTI in Women

Although there are things you can do to prevent a UTI, you’re likely to get a UTI at some point. If you’ve wondered “what are the signs of a UTI?” then now you know what to look for.

If you notice any UTI signs, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. Waiting to treat a UTI can make it worse, so you want to begin treatment as soon as possible if you have one.

If you’re looking for a physician, we offer excellent gynecological, obstetrical, and health and wellness services for women. Contact us today to find a physician in our New Jersey network.