Also Known As: UTI, Urinary tract infection, Urinary infection

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that affects part of the urinary tract. When it affects the lower urinary tract it is known as a simple cystitis (a bladder infection) and when it affects the upper urinary tract it is known as pyelonephritis (a kidney infection). Symptoms from a lower urinary tract include painful urination and either frequent urination or urge to urinate (or both), while those of pyelonephritis include fever and flank pain in addition to the symptoms of a lower UTI. In the elderly and the very young, symptoms may be vague or non specific. The main causal agent of both types is Escherichia coli, however other bacteria, viruses or fungi may rarely be the cause.

Urinary tract infections occur more commonly in women than men, with half of women having at least one infection at some point in their lives. Recurrences are common. Risk factors include female anatomy, sexual intercourse and family history. Pyelonephritis, if it occurs, usually follows a bladder infection but may also result from a blood borne infection. Diagnosis in young healthy women can be based on symptoms alone. In those with vague symptoms, diagnosis can be difficult because bacteria may be present without there being an infection. In complicated cases or if treatment has failed, a urine culture may be useful. In those with frequent infections, low dose antibiotics may be taken as a preventative measure.

In uncomplicated cases, urinary tract infections are easily treated with a short course of antibiotics, although resistance to many of the antibiotics used to treat this condition is increasing. In complicated cases, longer course or intravenous antibiotics may be needed, and if symptoms have not improved in two or three days, further diagnostic testing is needed. In women, urinary tract infections are the most common form of bacterial infection with 10% developing urinary tract infections yearly.

Lower urinary tract infection is also referred to as a bladder infection. The most common symptoms are burning with urination and having to urinate frequently (or an urge to urinate) in the absence of vaginal discharge and significant pain.[1] These symptoms may vary from mild to severe[2] and in healthy women last an average of six days.[3] Some pain above the pubic bone or in the lower back may be present. People experiencing an upper urinary tract infection, or pyelonephritis, may experience flank pain, fever, or nausea and vomiting in addition to the classic symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection.[2] Rarely the urine may appear bloody[4] or contain visible pyuria (pus in the urine).[5]


E. coli is the cause of 80–85% of urinary tract infections, with Staphylococcus saprophyticus being the cause in 5–10%.[1] Rarely they may be due to viral or fungal infections.[8] Other bacterial causes include: Klebsiella, Proteus, Pseudomonas, and Enterobacter. These are uncommon and typically related to abnormalities of the urinary system or urinary catheterization.[4] Urinary tract infections due to Staphylococcus aureus typically occurs secondary to blood born infections.[2]



In young sexually active women, sexual activity is the cause of 75–90% of bladder infections, with the risk of infection related to the frequency of sex.[1] The term "honeymoon cystitis" has been applied to this phenomenon of frequent UTIs during early marriage. In post-menopausal women, sexual activity does not affect the risk of developing a UTI. Spermicide use, independent of sexual frequency, increases the risk of UTIs.[1]


Women are more prone to UTIs than men because, in females, the urethra is much shorter and closer to the anus.[9] As a woman's estrogen levels decrease with menopause, her risk of urinary tract infections increases due to the loss of protective vaginal flora.[9]

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