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Common symptoms of UTIs

They hurt, they’re uncomfortable and they aren’t always easy to understand or talk about.

Each year, millions of people suffer from urinary tract infections, or UTIs. These infections are especially common in women. In fact, half of all women (versus 5 percent of men) will get at least one urinary tract infection in their lifetime. Infants and older adults are also more susceptible.

Why do UTIs happen?

Water in the blood is controlled by the kidneys, which also filter out waste products excreted as urine. Each kidney is attached to a tube (the ureter) that carries urine to the bladder.

When the bladder is full, it sends a signal that causes the urge to urinate. Urine then exits the body through another tube called the urethra.

The urinary tract is designed to stop urine from flowing back up into the bladder and to the kidneys, minimizing the risk of severe kidney infections. But sometimes that natural defense mechanism fails, allowing microorganisms (usually bacteria) to enter the urinary tract through the urethra and multiply.

As a result, most UTIs occur in the bladder. While these infections can cause uncomfortable symptoms, they are usually not life-threatening.

Types and symptoms

There are three different forms of UTIs, classified by the location in the urinary tract where they occur.

1. Urethritis (urethra infection)

Inflammation of the urethra is most often caused by bacterial infection. Typical symptoms of urethritis include frequent urges to urinate and pain while urinating.

While urethritis affects people of all ages and genders, women are at higher risk than men. The female urethra is much shorter than the male urethra, making it much easier for bacteria to get into the tube and cause infection.

2. Cystitis (bladder infection)

Cystitis is probably the most common type of UTI experienced by women. In most cases, cystitis is more of a nuisance than cause for serious concern.

Some cases of cystitis may go away on their own, but frequent episodes require medical treatment. If untreated, cystitis may lead to a more serious infection that can potentially affect the kidney.

Common signs of cystitis include:

  • Pain, or a burning or stinging sensation while urinating
  • Increased urgency to urinate 
  • Increased frequency of urination without passing much urine
  • Dark, cloudy urine that has a strong odor
  • Lower stomach pain
  • General feeling of being unwell and tired all the time

In children, symptoms of cystitis may differ. If your child has the following symptoms, visit your  nearby Indigo Health:

  • Stomach pain
  • Increased urgency to urinate 
  • Increased frequency of urination without passing much urine
  • Fever above 102°F (38.9°C)
  • Weakness and irritability
  • Lack of appetite that might be accompanied by vomiting
  • Recurring infection (pyelonephritis)

3. Chronic pyelonephritis (kidney infection)

Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) is a type of UTI that generally begins in the urethra or bladder and travels to one or both kidneys. This rare UTI usually occurs in children or adults who have an obstructed urinary tract. A kidney infection requires prompt medical attention.

Common symptoms, which typically appear within two days of infection, include:

  • Fever above 102°F (38.9°C)
  • Back, abdomen or groin pain
  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • Cloudy urine that may or may not have any blood or pus
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Urine that has a fishy smell
  • Chills or shivers
  • Nausea, vomiting or feeling sick
  • Exhaustion with moist skin
  • Mental confusion (in severe cases)

If not treated properly, a kidney infection may cause permanent kidney damage, or the bacteria can spread cause a life-threatening infection. Treatment usually includes antibiotics.

Other common UTI symptoms

Additional UTI symptoms may include:

  • Lower pelvis pressure
  • Incontinence (urine leakage)
  • Pain during sex
  • Penis pain

Indigo is here to help — in person and online

If you suspect you have a UTI, it’s important to seek medical care right away.  Indigo Health is open 8 am to 8 pm every day, including weekends and holidays.

One of our friendly providers will evaluate your symptoms and provide a prompt diagnosis and treatment plan including a prescription, if needed.  

If you’ve had UTIs in the past and know the symptoms,  Indigo Online Care makes it even easier to get the care you need, when you need it. Just answer a short online questionnaire, and provider will get back to you in less than an hour. 

Note: If you need a prescription after a visit to an Indigo clinic in Pierce or south King County, skip the trip to the pharmacy and have it delivered to right to your home or office for a flat fee of just $10. Learn more about  Indigo prescription delivery.

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