The urinary tract is the body’s filtering system for removing liquid waste or urine. It comprises the kidneys, ureters (tubes that carry urine from kidneys to the bladder), bladder, and urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder for excretion). A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract.

Women are more likely than men to get UTIs because of their urinary tract design. Men have a longer urethra, so it is more difficult for bacteria to enter the urinary tract. Nearly half of all women will have a urinary tract infection at some point in their lives. About 20 percent of these women will have repeat infections.

The urinary tract has two parts: the lower and upper tracts. Most infections occur in the lower urinary tract and can also be called bladder infections. Infections in the lower tract (involving the bladder and urethra) are more common because bacteria can easily enter this area. (uncomplicated UTI)Infections in the upper urinary tract involving the kidneys and ureters are called complicated UTI which can lead to kidney failure.

Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms

Symptoms of lower urinary tract infection or bladder infection may include:-

  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Burning sensation while urinating (Dysuria)
  • Pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Blood in urine

Symptoms of upper urinary tract infection or kidney infection may include:

  • Fever with Chills
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pain higher in the back (around the upper sides and waist)

In women, the symptoms of a urinary tract infection are similar to those caused by some vaginal infections.

Causes of UTIs

In women, urinary tract infections usually are caused by bacteria that live on the skin near the rectum or vagina. These bacteria can travel through the urinary tract and cause infections in the bladder or other parts of the urinary tract. UTIs in men are rare and usually indicate an abnormal urinary tract or an enlarged prostate.

The most common causes of urinary tract infections in the female are-

1) Sexual intercourse

The back and forth motion of the penis during intercourse can push bacteria into the urethra. Bladder infections are more common in women who have had multiple sexual partners or have frequent intercourse.

2) Waiting too long to urinate

The bladder is a muscle that gets bigger when it holds urine and shrinks to push it out. Waiting too long to urinate can cause the bladder muscles to stretch too much. Stretching weakens the muscle so not all the urine is pushed out, increasing the risk of a urinary tract infection.

3) Kidney stones

Kidney stones that may physically block the free flow of urine

4) Cystocele

Relaxing of the bladder and vaginal area, which causes pools of urine to remain in the bladder

5) Diverticula of bladder

Infections that develop on the inside wall of the bladder and allowing urine to collect in diverticula.

6) Urethral stenosis

A narrowing of the urethra, preventing an easy flow of urine out of the body — this can be present at birth or result from a number of conditions or activities

7) Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections in childhood ( VUR) can cause kidney damage

Lab Testing for UTIs

Several methods may be used to tell whether you have a UTI. A urine sample may be used to evaluate the number of bacteria and white blood cells present. A high number of white blood cells in your urine may indicate an infection.

A pelvic exam may be needed to rule out a vaginal or pelvic problem. X-rays or ultrasounds may be used if the infection returns often or does not respond to treatment. NCCT Abdomen and MCU may be required to find out the underlying cause.


Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. Lower Urinary tract infection requires antibiotics for three days and complicated infection require two to three week of Antibiotics. The patient must take 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. It is very important to use all medication that your doctor prescribes, even if symptoms go away before finishing the medication. Your doctor may recommend testing your urine after the treatment is finished to be sure the infection has completely cleared up.

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Dr. Sham Sunder Sr. Consultant Nephrology (Head of Nephrology Unit)Kailash Hospital Noida & Medical Research Center (New Delhi)

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