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What Is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common but treatable infection of any part of the urinary system. It’s the second most common infection of the body. People of any age or gender can get UTIs, but women are 30 times more likely to get them than men.

Types of UTIs

Urinary tract infections can occur in:

  • The urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body), called urethritis.
  • The bladder, called cystitis.
  • The kidneys, called pyelonephritis.

They happen most commonly in the bladder.

Causes of UTIs

Women are more likely to get UTIs than men because they have shorter urethras. Therefore, bacteria and, less commonly, yeast have less distance to travel to infect the urinary tract and bladder. A woman’s urethra is also closer to sources of bacteria such as the vagina and anus than male genitalia. Once in the bladder, the bacteria reproduce, causing the typical signs of pain and inflammation people with UTIs experience.

UTI Diagnosis and Treatment

If you have symptoms of pain when peeing, lower abdominal pressure, needing to urinate often, and smelly or cloudy urine, your health care provider will test your urine for bacteria that cause UTIs. If test results confirm that you have a UTI, your medical provider can prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection and its symptoms within a couple of days. If left untreated, the infection can spread to your kidneys and other body parts.

Preventing UTIs

You can take simple steps to avoid getting a UTI, including:

  • Staying hydrated.
  • Peeing whenever you get the urge.
  • Peeing soon after sex.
  • Having good hygiene and wiping from front to back.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothes and cotton underwear.

Fortunately, most UTIs are easily treatable and don’t have serious or lasting effects.

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