Health Guide

Urinary tract infection in women

What is it?

  • A urinary (yer-in-air-e) tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the bladder, kidneys, or urethra (u-ree-thruh). When the infection is in the bladder, it is called cystitis (sis-ti-tis). When the infection is in the urethra, it is called urethritis (u-reeth-ri-tis). It is called pyelonephritis (pi-uh-lo-nef-ri-tis) if the infection travels up to the kidneys. UTIs can be a common problem, especially in women who have sex. Some women have many UTIs. The kidneys could be damaged if a UTI is not treated for months or years.
  • The kidneys are bean-shaped organs that remove unwanted chemicals and waste from the blood. These wastes are turned into urine by the kidneys. The kidneys are attached to the bladder by little tubes called ureters (yer-ih-ters). Urine travels down the ureters and into the bladder. The bladder is a hollow organ that holds urine. When you are ready to urinate, it travels through the urethra (a small tube) and out the body.


Germs called bacteria (bak-teer-e-uh) cause UTIs. These germs usually enter the urethra and travel up the urinary tract. The bacteria can then infect the urethra, bladder, or kidneys. Following are things that make it easier to get a UTI.

  • Wiping from back to front after urinating or having a BM.
  • Having sex may cause germs to enter the urethra more easily.
  • Being pregnant.
  • Having diabetes (die-uh-b-tees).
  • Having had a UTI before.
  • Holding your urine rather than urinating.

Signs and Symptoms:

You may feel burning and pain when you pass urine. You may need to pass urine often. After passing urine, you may feel that you could urinate more. You may have red or pink urine (bloody urine) or pain low in your abdomen (belly). If you have a kidney infection, your back, side, or stomach may hurt. You may have a fever or feel like you are going to vomit (throw up). But some people with UTIs do not have symptoms

Wellness Recommendations:

Drink 8 to 10 glasses (soda pop can size) of water every day to keep your urine clear or a light yellow color. You may have fewer UTIs if you urinate after having sex.

Medical Care:

A urine sample will be tested to learn if you have an infection. If bacteria are present in the urine, you will need antibiotic medicine. You may need to be treated in the hospital if you have a bad infection. Other tests may be done if you have had many UTIs to be sure that you do not have a serious problem.


Dietary measures

  • Decrease the sugar in your diet. Your ability to fight infection may improve if you eat less sugar. If you drink soda pop, do not drink more than one can a day as it contains much sugar.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.



      Other ways of treating your symptoms : Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.

      Talk to your caregiver if:

      • You would like medicine to treat a UTI.
      • Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
      • You have questions about what you have read in this document.


      • You are vomiting (throwing up) so much that you cannot keep down your medicine or any fluids.
      • You are so weak that you cannot stand up.
      • You have trouble thinking clearly.

      Care Agreement:

      You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


      1. Adatto K, Doebele KG, Galland L et al: Behavioral factors and urinary tract infection. JAMA 1979; 241(23):2525-2526.

      2. Avorn J, Monane M, Gurwitz JH et al: Reduction of bacteriuria and pyuria after ingestion of cranberry juice. JAMA 1994; 271(10):751-754.

      3. Foxman B & Chi JW: Health behavior and urinary tract infection in college-aged women. J Clin Epidemiol 1990; 43(4):329-337.

      4. Kjeldsen-Kragh J, Kvaavik E, Bottolfs M et al: Inhibition of growth of Proteus mirabilis and Escherichia coli in urine in response to fasting and vegetarian diet. APMIS 1995; 103(11):818-822.

      5. Larsson B, Jonasson A & Pianu S: Prophylactic effect of UVA E in women with recurrent cystitis: a preliminary report. Curr Ther Res Clin Exp 1993; 53(4):441-443.

      6. Walker EB, Barney DP, Mickelsen JN et al: Cranberry concentrate: UTI prophylaxis (letter). J Fam Pract 1997; 45(2):167-168.

      Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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