Urinary Tract Infection

ExitCare ImageUrinary tract infections (UTIs) can develop anywhere along your urinary tract. Your urinary tract is your body's drainage system for removing wastes and extra water. Your urinary tract includes two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder, and a urethra. Your kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs. Each kidney is about the size of your fist. They are located below your ribs, one on each side of your spine.


Infections are caused by microbes, which are microscopic organisms, including fungi, viruses, and bacteria. These organisms are so small that they can only be seen through a microscope. Bacteria are the microbes that most commonly cause UTIs.


Symptoms of UTIs may vary by age and gender of the patient and by the location of the infection. Symptoms in young women typically include a frequent and intense urge to urinate and a painful, burning feeling in the bladder or urethra during urination. Older women and men are more likely to be tired, shaky, and weak and have muscle aches and abdominal pain. A fever may mean the infection is in your kidneys. Other symptoms of a kidney infection include pain in your back or sides below the ribs, nausea, and vomiting.


To diagnose a UTI, your caregiver will ask you about your symptoms. Your caregiver also will ask to provide a urine sample. The urine sample will be tested for bacteria and white blood cells. White blood cells are made by your body to help fight infection.


Typically, UTIs can be treated with medication. Because most UTIs are caused by a bacterial infection, they usually can be treated with the use of antibiotics. The choice of antibiotic and length of treatment depend on your symptoms and the type of bacteria causing your infection.


  • If you were prescribed antibiotics, take them exactly as your caregiver instructs you. Finish the medication even if you feel better after you have only taken some of the medication.

  • Drink enough water and fluids to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.

  • Avoid caffeine, tea, and carbonated beverages. They tend to irritate your bladder.

  • Empty your bladder often. Avoid holding urine for long periods of time.

  • Empty your bladder before and after sexual intercourse.

  • After a bowel movement, women should cleanse from front to back. Use each tissue only once.


  • You have back pain.

  • You develop a fever.

  • Your symptoms do not begin to resolve within 3 days.


  • You have severe back pain or lower abdominal pain.

  • You develop chills.

  • You have nausea or vomiting.

  • You have continued burning or discomfort with urination.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.