A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection somewhere along the urinary tract. Most infections are bacterial and develop in either the urethra or bladder, but the kidneys can also become infected.
When an infection is located in the bladder, it’s called cystitis. This infection is typically caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacteria that’s found in the intestines. There are some strains of E. coli that are naturally found in people’s intestines and others that can cause severe intestinal infections. An infection in the urethra is urethritis. Several different bacterias can cause urethritis. Kidney infections are less common than urethra and bladder infections.
Although urinary tract infections are much less common in men, men can still get UTIs. Young men usually don’t develop infections, but older men can.
Most urinary tract infections are caused when bacteria migrate from the anus to the urethra. Women are more prone to UTIs because the distance between the anus and urethra on a female’s body is much shorter than that on a man’s. Urinary tract abnormalities, blockages in the urinary tract, using a catheter, and a suppressed immune system can increase a person’s risk of developing UTIs.
Most urinary tract infections are effectively treated with prescription medication. Depending on a patient’s symptoms and other medical considerations, a doctor might prescribe trimethoprim, fosfomycin, nitrofurantoin, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, cephalexin, azithromycin, doxycycline or ceftriaxone. Most of the time, an infection will clear up after just a few days of using a prescribed antibiotic, although a doctor may suggest continuing to use the antibiotic for more than a few days.
In more severe cases, a doctor may prescribe an analgesic that numbs the bladder and urinary tract. This reduces pain and burning during urination. These symptoms usually go away shortly after a patient begins taking antibiotics, though, so additional medication typically isn’t necessary.
For recurring or severe infections, a doctor might prescribe ongoing antibiotics or send a patient to a hospital for an intravenous antibiotic.