Urinary Tract Infections
Information for Women
A urinary tract infection (UTI) refers to the presence of
germs in the urinary tract. Most UTI's are caused by
bacteria such as E. coli.
The urinary tract includes the kidneys, the ureters, the
bladder, and the urethra (see diagram). A UTI may involve
any of these parts. Infection in the bladder is called a lower
urinary tract infection. Those in the kidneys and ureters are
called upper urinary tract infections.
It is thought that 10 to 20% of women have a UTI at some
point in their lives. As we age, the number of UTIs may
increase. These infections are often treated with
antibiotics. There are things you can do to prevent UTIs.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of a UTI include:
ξ pain or burning while passing urine
ξ going to the bathroom often
ξ having a strong urge to pass urine
ξ abdominal, back or side (flank) pain.
ξ bloody or cloudy urine
ξ strong smelling urine
ξ fever or chills
Testing and Diagnosis
Your health care provider will ask you your
symptoms. You may also need a urine test.
This test will look for red or white blood cells,
or bacteria in the urine. Sometimes other
infections (i.e., of the vagina) can mimic the
signs and symptoms of a UTI. In these cases, a
vaginal culture and a pelvic exam may be
Most often UTIs are treated with antibioitcs.
Your health care provider will decide on the
length of time you will need to take the
antibiotics. You may need treatment for 3 days
to two weeks.
It is important to take all of the medicine even
though you may feel better. If you stop
treatment too early, the infection may still be
present or it could come back.
Try to drink 10 to 15 glasses of fluids each
day. This will dilute your urine and flush out
the bacteria. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and
intercourse during the treatment period. These
can further irritate the bladder.
Women are more prone to UTIs than men. In a
woman, the urethra, the vagina and the rectum
are close to each other. This allows for the
bacteria from the rectum and vagina to transfer
to the urethra. Factors that may put a woman at
increased risk for a UTI include:
ξ recent catheterization
ξ sexual intercourse
ξ diaphragm or cervical cap use
ξ having had UTIs as a child
ξ being postmenopausal.
ξ tub baths
You can’t prevent all UTIs, but here are some
ideas that may help you to avoid them.
ξ Wipe from front to back after going to the
bathroom or having a bowel movement.
ξ Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluid
(decaffeinated) a day. Caffeine irritates
ξ Empty your bladder before and after
ξ Urinate when you have the urge or at
least every 2 to 4 hours.
ξ Wash your perianal area with soap and
ξ Wear cotton or cotton crotched
underwear. Avoid tight clothing.
ξ Change out of wet swim suits and wear
dry, cotton underwear.
ξ Try different positions during sex that
cause less friction to the urethra
(opening of the urine channel).
ξ Taking tub baths
If you have many UTIs (4 or more a year),
consult with your health care provider. They
may recommend more testing, switching to
other forms of birth control or preventative
(prophylactic) treatment with antibiotics.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you have any
questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This is not medical
advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each person’s health needs are
different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using this information. If you have an
emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 4/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights
reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4286