A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system. Most UTIs involve the urethra and bladder, but can spread to the kidneys. A woman's chances of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) is as high as almost 50%. Many women have repeat infections or infections after intercourse. After menopause, hormone changes can cause changes in the vaginal bacteria and increase the risk for UTIs. Doctors usually treat UTIs with antibiotics, but women can take measures to lessen the chance of getting an infection.
If you're a woman, your chance of getting a urinary tract infection, or UTI, is high; some experts rank your lifetime risk of getting one as high as 1 in 2 -- with many women having repeat infections, sometimes for years on end. Here's how to handle UTIs, whether you're experiencing your first or fifth infection, and how to make it less likely you'll get one in the first place.
UTIs are a key reason we're often told to wipe from front to back after using the bathroom. That's because the urethra -- the tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body -- is located close to the anus. Bacteria from the large intestine, such as E. coli, are in the perfect position to escape the anus and invade the urethra. From there, they can travel up to the bladder, and if the infection isn't treated, continue on to infect the kidneys. Women may be especially prone to UTIs because they have shorter urethras, which allow bacteria quick access to the bladder. Having sex can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract, too.
To identify a UTI, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
A burning feeling when you urinate
A frequent or intense urge to urinate, even though little comes out when you do
Pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
Cloudy, dark, bloody, or strange-smelling urine
Feeling tired or shaky
Fever or chills (a sign the infection may have reached your kidneys)