About urinary tract infections (UTIs).

What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

A UTI is an infection anywhere in the urinary tract, such as the kidneys, bladder and urethra. Usually, the bacteria that cause a UTI enter the urethra and may travel to the bladder and kidneys. Your body often removes these bacteria, so there may not even be symptoms. But when they continue to reside in the bladder, they can cause irritation, which leads to an infection. Without treatment, the infection can lead to a more serious condition. That's why it so important to see your doctor as soon as you experience symptoms. Only your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic to treat your UTI.

You're not alone.

After the flu and the common cold, urinary tract infections are the most common medical complaint among women age 18+, and it has been estimated that up to 60% of women will experience the unbearable pain and discomfort of a UTI at least once during their lives. The rate of repeat infections is high as well — about 20% of those who experience one UTI will have another.

What causes these infections? Why are they so painful? How do you treat them? (And keep them from happening again?)

UTI causes

Both men and women can get urinary tract infections, although they are more common in women. That's because the bacteria that commonly cause a UTI are found in the digestive tract, stool, and on the skin around and between a woman's anus and vagina. Since the female urethra is located very near these areas, the likelihood of bacteria reaching it is great. The short length of a female's urethra also makes her more prone to infection in other parts of the urinary tract.

Risk factors

A woman's likelihood of developing a UTI increases as she ages and goes through certain life stages. Other more common risk factors and triggers for a UTI include:

  • Sexual intercourse can enable bacteria to more readily travel to the bladder. Women who use diaphragms and/or spermicidal agents for birth control may also be at higher risk.
  • Some medications, which may lower immunity.
  • Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.
  • Diabetes or other chronic illnesses that may impair the immune system.
  • Exposure to damp clothes, such as wet bathing suits, which can aggravate bacteria growth.
  • Recurrent Infections.

Most women don't have recurring infections, but it is common — in fact, one out of five women who get a UTI will get another one. (Source: US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.) If you do get another UTI, speak with your doctor about treatment options, he or she may prescribe a longer course of antibiotics or have other options for you. You may also take AZO Cranberry to help flush your system to maintain urinary tract cleanliness.

Possible complications

Once diagnosed, most UTIs can be treated successfully. But urinary tract infections that are left untreated can lead to more serious complications like kidney infections, which may cause permanent damage. Women who have UTIs while pregnant may also have an increased risk of delivering low birth weight or premature infants.

How do I know it’s a UTI?
How do I treat a UTI?
Can I prevent a UTI?