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The ABC of UTIs

Did you know urinary tract infections (UTIs) are among the most common infections in people? UTIs occur when bacteria enter and infect the urinary tract. UTIs can affect several parts of the urinary tract, but the most common type of UTI is a bladder infection (also known as cystitis).The body can sometimes fight the bacteria without any problems; however, the infection can cause discomfort and may sometimes spread to the kidneys. Kidney infections are less common but more serious.


  • A burning feeling when you urinate
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
  • Pelvic pain, in women, especially in the center of the pelvis and around the pubic bone
  • Cloudy, dark, bloody, or smelly urine
  • Feeling tired or shaky
  • Fever or chills (a sign the infection may have reached your kidneys)

Risk factors

  • A previous UTI
  • Sexual activity, or a new sexual partner
  • Pregnancy
  • Changes in vaginal flora or acidity caused by menopause or use of spermicides
  • Age (older adults are more likely to get UTIs)
  • Reduced mobility (for example, after prolonged bed rest)
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Urinary catheter placement
  • Kidney stones
  • Prostate enlargement

When to seek medical care

If you have any symptoms of a UTI, it is appropriate to see your health care professional. Contact your health care professional right away if you have symptoms of a kidney infection.

Diagnosis and treatment

Antibiotic treatment is usually helpful in treating an infection. Your health care professional will be able to determine if you or your child has a UTI and what antibiotic is needed. If you are prescribed antibiotics, take them exactly how your health care professional recommends. Never skip doses. Drink plenty of water to help clear the bacteria from your body. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about your antibiotics.