diagram of urinary tract overlaid on woman holding pelvic area
May 13, 2024

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects any part of the urinary system. This could include the urethra, bladder, ureters, or kidneys. Most UTIs involve the lower urinary tract, however, which is comprised of the urethra and bladder. Both men and women can develop these infections, but women are at a greater risk. Here’s what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of UTIs as well as how to prevent them.

What Causes UTIs?

E coli bacteria under a microscope

A UTI usually occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and then travel up to the bladder. The urinary system is designed to keep bacteria out, but sometimes its defenses fail. When this happens, bacteria can grow in the bladder until a full-on infection forms. UTIs occur more often in females because of the short length of their urethra as well as its proximity to the anus. Bacteria from the large intestine, such as E. coli, can sometimes travel from your anus and into your urethra, and from there they travel up to your bladder. That’s why it’s important for women to wipe from front to back after using the bathroom to minimize the chance of bacteria spreading from the anus to the urethra. UTIs can also be caused by sexual activity as well as sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and Mgen. This is because in females the urethra is very close to the vagina.

Symptoms of a UTI

The symptoms you may experience when you have a UTI depend on which part of the urinary tract is infected. A lower tract UTI in the urethra and bladder may cause:

  • Increased urge to urinate
  • Urinating often but passing small amounts of urine
  • Burning sensation with urination
  • Cloudy urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Urine that appears pink or cola-colored
  • Urine with a strong odor
  • Lower belly discomfort
  • Discharge from the urethra
  • Pelvic pain in women
  • Rectal pain in men

A UTI in the upper tract affects the ureters and kidneys. If the bacteria move from the infected kidney into the blood, this can be potentially life threatening. Symptoms of an upper tract UTI may include:

  • Pain in the upper back and sides
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills


doctor holding urine sample and test results

If you suspect you may have a UTI, you should contact your doctor. A doctor can review your symptoms and perform a physical exam. To confirm a UTI diagnosis, your doctor may ask for a urine sample to test it for microbes. This test will look for a higher number of white blood cells, which indicates an infection. A culture will also be performed on your sample to test for bacteria or fungi. This can help identify the cause of the infection so your doctor can prescribe the right course of treatment.


The way to treat a UTI depends on whether it’s bacterial, viral, or fungal. Most UTIs are bacterial and can be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor will determine the best antibiotic based on the type of bacteria found in your urine culture. Lower tract UTIs can typically be treated with oral antibiotics, while upper tract infections may require intravenous antibiotics. If your UTI is viral or fungal, your doctor will prescribe antiviral or antifungal medications to treat the infection. Drink plenty of water while taking your medication to help your body clear the infection faster.


glass of fresh cranberry juice surrounded by cranberries

There are a few things you can do to help lower your risk of UTIs, such as:

  • Drink plenty of water. Water helps dilute the urine and leads to more frequent urination, which flushes bacteria from the urinary tract before an infection can begin.
  • Drink cranberry juice. Studies suggest that cranberries may contain a chemical that might prevent certain bacteria from sticking to the walls of your bladder.
  • Wipe front to back. After urinating and after a bowel movement, make sure you only wipe from front to back to prevent the spread of bacteria from the anus to the urethra and vagina.
  • Urinate after sex. To help flush bacteria out of your urethra, it’s important to empty your bladder soon after having sex. Drinking a full glass of water can also help flush out any bacteria.
  • Consider your birth control method. Diaphragms, unlubricated condoms, and condoms with spermicide can all contribute to bacterial growth that can cause a UTI.
  • Avoid irritating feminine products. Using products such as deodorant sprays, powders, and douches in the genital area can irritate the urethra.

UTIs are relatively common, especially among women. If you suspect you may have a UTI, it’s important to see your healthcare provider so they can provide a diagnosis and treatment. Here at The Drug Store Pharmacies, we can fill your prescriptions and provide recommendations on over-the-counter remedies to treat uncomfortable symptoms as well as preventative measures you can take. If you need help managing your UTI, please reach out to us today and our knowledgeable pharmacy team will be happy to help you get back to feeling your best!