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A urinary tract infection can affect any component of the urinary system, which encompasses the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. These infections tend to be more common in women than in men; nearly half of all women will experience at least one urinary tract infection during their lifetime.

Female urethrae are shorter than male, so harmful bacteria have a shorter distance to travel if it enters the body from the bowels. In uncomplicated cases, it is simple to treat a urinary tract infection with prescribed medication. Symptoms can help a doctor determine the severity of the infection.

Burning Urination

The most common symptom of a urinary tract infection is a burning sensation during urination. Urine passes through the ureters on its road to expulsion. E. coli reside in the bowels but can be transferred from the anal area to the outer ureter during sex or wiping after a bowel movement.

This is why women should always wipe front to back. After the bacteria reaches the ureters, they become infected and inflamed. When urine passes through, irritation can cause pain.

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Frequent Urination

People with urinary tract infections tend to need to go to the bathroom more frequently, usually because the infection renders the bladder incapable of emptying entirely. Frequent urination may be due to a blockage or inflammation infection or another medical condition. The strong urge to urinate more is a hallmark of urinary tract disease. In many cases, small amounts of urine pass through the body. The frequent urination is made more uncomfortable due to the burning sensation.

woman holding crotch in pain in front of toilet Tharakorn / Getty Images

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Back Pain

A distinctive symptom associated with urinary tract infections is a pain in the lower back that can feel like muscular aches. As such, the individual may try over-the-counter pain relievers, but in the case of a UTI, these are unlikely to provide relief. Pain in the flanks may be a sign that infection has spread to the kidney, and prescription medications for the infection should ease this symptom. Rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and restricting movement may help reduce discomfort in the interim.

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Cloudy or Smelly Urine

A urinary tract infection can change the properties of an infected person's urine. Firstly, with frequent urination, the quantity of urine may be reduced. Also, the urine may be cloudy for the duration of the infection. A bad smell may also be present.

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Blood in Urine

In rare cases, the fluid may contain visible pus or be darker in color due to the presence of blood. Blood in the urine could be a sign of a serious infection or other diseases affecting the urinary tract. Severe infection can cause complications, including kidney damage.

vial of urine with red in it representing blood

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Genital Pain

In some cases, people complain of pain in the pelvis, including the genital area, even when not urinating. Such pain is typically a dull, persistent ache that is hard to ignore. Once treatment begins, this pain should ebb. If there's no respite within two days of treatment, further investigation by a medical professional is advisable. Discomfort is a typical response to many issues. But an ongoing pain that doesn't have an identifiable source is an indicator something is wrong.

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Fever

When the upper urinary tract is infected, individuals tend to develop fever and chills. These signs and symptoms, being somewhat generic, often stand in the way of an accurate diagnosis. If a person is experiencing fever and chills as well as any other symptoms of a UTI, it is important they provide their doctor with a full list. Clear communication aids in proper diagnosis and the development of an effective treatment plan.

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Nausea

When a urinary tract infection begins to impact the function of the kidneys, the individual can experience nausea, often regardless of food consumption. In some cases, nausea may lead to vomiting. Slowly eating bland foods may prevent nausea from getting worse but is unlikely to stop the nauseous feeling.

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Vomiting

Though some people with UTIs develop nausea that leads to vomiting, if this symptom persists despite treatment, it may be a cause for concern. An infection that is more severe than initially assumed could require different medication to ensure the person makes a full recovery.

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Discharge

In many cases, urinary tract infections cause discharge that differs from normal urethral secretions in appearance, texture, and odor. Both men and women may have this abnormal discharge. The discharge is unlikely to persist post-recovery, but if it does, a further investigation is necessary. People who experience abnormal discharge should get tested to rule out other conditions, such as yeast infections or sexually transmitted diseases.

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Pain During Intercourse

A UTI can dramatically increase the sensitivity of the urethra due to ongoing irritation and inflammation. During intercourse, areas around the urethra experience frequent rubbing, resulting in pain when the urethra is inflamed.

For females, the pain may be even more intense, as pressure on the internal walls of the vagina may push on the bladder. Additionally, engaging in intercourse with a UTI can introduce more bacteria into the urethra, worsening the infection and intensifying the pain.

woman sitting on bed with pain in her urethra from UTI

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Leakage

During urination, the brain sends signals to various muscles around the urinary tract, squeezing the bladder and releasing urine through the urethra. If the bacteria responsible for a UTI spreads from the urethral opening to the bladder, it may cause swelling and irritation. As a result, pressure on the organ increases, and urine leaks out, even when the natural signals are not present.

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Fatigue

Feeling unusually tired and drained is another possible symptom of a urinary tract infection. This fatigue is often accompanied by other symptoms, and it may be a result of your body's immune response to the infection. The constant fight against harmful bacteria can leave you feeling lethargic and less energetic.

Tired woman lying in bed can't sleep late at night with insomnia. Asian girl with funny face sick or sad depressed sleeping at home.

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Confusion

In some cases, a urinary tract infection can affect cognitive function, leading to confusion and difficulty concentrating. This mental fog may be more pronounced in older adults and can be a sign of a more severe infection that has reached the kidneys. Eldery people with UTIs may have other symptoms, but they may not have a fever. This lack of fever, combined with the fact that they may not be able to verbalize what is wrong, can make UTIs challenging to diagnose in this age group. If you or a loved one experiences confusion along with other UTI symptoms, it's essential to seek medical attention promptly.

Isolated shot of confused beautiful woman with dark skin, curly haircut, spreads hands sideways, smirks face, feels doubt while makes choice, dressed in casual jumper, isolated over purple wall

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Feeling Cold or Shivering

One unusual and unsettling symptom of a urinary tract infection is the sensation of feeling cold or experiencing uncontrollable shivering, even when the surrounding environment is warm. These chills are called rigors, and they may be a sign that a UTI has progressed to a systemic infection. If these chills are accompanied by high fever, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, flank pain, elevated heart rate, elevated respiratory rate, behavioral changes, and not passing urine for more than 12 hours, seek medical help right away.

Frozen. Sad latina female sit on couch at freezing cooled studio flat in warm cap and blanket shiver tremble with cold. Unhappy young lady spend time at home feel bad suffer of heating system problems

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.