Urinary Tract Infection


Urinary tract infection, commonly called UTI, is any infection that affects the urinary system. The urinary system includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urinary tract infections occur when microorganisms from the skin or rectum enter the urethra and infect the urinary tract. The infections can affect several parts of the urinary tract, but the most common type is a bladder infection (cystitis).

Women are at greater risk of developing a UTI than men. If an infection is limited to the bladder, it can cause discomfort and be quickly treated. However, serious health problems can result if the infection spreads to the kidneys.


Other factors that can increase the risk of UTIs:

  1. A previous history of UTI.
  2. Sexual activity.
  3. Pregnancy.
  4. Age (older adults and young children are more prone to get UTIs).
  5. Structural problems in the urinary tract, such as enlarged prostate.
  6. Poor hygiene.
  7. Systemic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.


Urinary tract infections are a major reason the doctors advise women to wipe from front to back each time they use the toilet.  The urethra, the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, is closer to the anus. Bacteria from the large intestine, e.g. E. coli, can be passed from the anus into the urethra. From there, they can travel up to the bladder and, if the infection is left untreated, can further infect the kidneys because women possess shorter urethras than men, which makes it easier for bacteria to get to their bladders. Also, bacteria can be introduced into the urinary tract through sexual intercourse. Women managing diabetes are at high risk of UTI due to low immunity.

Some women are more prone to UTI due to their genes if their urinary tract shape makes them prone to infection. Other conditions that can boost the risk of having UTI are 

Kidney diseases,

Hormone changes,

Multiple sclerosis,

Spinal cord injury, etc.


Urinary tract infections can occur in different parts of the urinary tract. Each type has a specific name based on where it is.

  1. Urethritis: This affects the urethra. It causes a discharge and burning sensation during urinary. 
  2. Cystitis: This happens in the bladder. This makes you feel like you need to urinate a lot or might have painful urination. You might also have lower belly pain and cloudy or bloody urine.
  3. Pyelonephritis: This affects the kidneys. It can cause fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and pain in the upper back or side.


UTIs don’t always have symptoms. However, when symptoms occur, they may include:

  1. A strong urge to urinate that doesn’t go away. 
  2. A burning sensation when urinating.
  3. Urinating often with small amounts of urine output.
  4. Urine that looks cloudy
  5. Signs of blood in the urine.
  6. Concentrated smelly urine
  7. Pelvic pain in women, especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone.


History, examination, and urine test. Your healthcare provider may ask you to do further tests if complicated or recurrent.  


After you have been diagnosed with a UTI, your healthcare professional is in the best position to determine what antibiotic you need to treat it. Sometimes other illnesses, like sexually transmitted diseases, have similar symptoms to UTIs. Only your healthcare professional can determine if you have a UTI or a different illness causing your symptoms and determine the best treatment drugs and methods. 

Women should engage in good and proper hygiene and pay attention to their bodies to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 


Lower urinary tract infections rarely lead to implications when treated promptly and properly. However, if a UTI is left untreated it can lead to serious health problems. Some of the complications are:

  1. Low birth weight baby: Untreated UTI in pregnancy could lead to delivering a low birth weight or premature infant. 
  2. Recurrent infections: This is a situation where you have two or more UTIs within six months or three or more within a year. Repeated urinary tract infection is more common in women than in men.  
  3. Permanent kidney damage from a kidney infection due to UTI that is left untreated.
  4. A narrowed urethra in men due to repeated infections of the urethra.
  5. Sepsis: This is a potentially life-threatening condition which may happen if the infective organisms travel from the urinary tract into the blood stream.


Here are some tips that can help you avoid getting UTIs.

  1. Empty your bladder when you feel the urge to urinate without delay. Do not leave the toilet until you have emptied your bladder. 
  2. Wipe from the front backward after using the toilet.
  3. Drink plenty of water.
  4. Wash your hand before touching your genitals
  5. Clean your genital area before and after sex.
  6. Stand up to urinate immediately after sex to rinse off any bacteria that may have entered your urethra during sexual intercourse.
  7. Keep your genital area dry by wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes. Avoid wearing tight jeans and nylon underwear. They can trap moisture, creating the perfect environment for bacteria growth.

© Doyin Zouerat Odekunle