University Health Service

Smiling woman

Information on this webpage was adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

UTIs occur when bacteria enter and infect the urinary tract.  Any part of the urinary tract can become infected: urethra, bladder (infection is also called cystitis), ureters and/or kidneys. UTI is one of the most common health concerns among adult women. Up to half of all women will experience a UTI sometime in their lives.

Symptoms:

Bladder infections are relatively common and easy to treat. If you have any of these symptoms, it is appropriate to call for advice.

  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Frequent urinaton
  • Feeling the need to urinate despite having an 
  • Low fever (less than 101° F or 38.3° C)
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Pressure or cramping in the groin or bladder

Kidney infections are less common and more serious. Call your health care provider right awa if you have symptoms of a kidney infection as follows: 

  • Pain in the flank (below the rib cage) or lower back
  • High fever (more than 101° F or 38.3° C)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Mental state changes
  • Night sweats

Diagnosis and treatment

Health care providers can determine if you have a UTI by asking about symptoms, doing a physical examination, and ordering urine tests.

Because most UTIs are caused by bacteria, they can be treated with antibiotics. However, bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, which mean common antibiotics may not get rid of infections. Each time you take an antibiotic, the bacteria that normally live in your body (like those in your intestine) are more likely to become resistant to antibiotics. This is a serious and increasingly common problem because UTIs often recur in the same people. 

Be sure to take all medications as directed, especially antibiotics. Even though symptoms may disappear within a day or so, it is important to take all your antibiotics because the infection may flare up again and become difficult to eliminate.

Sometimes UTI symptoms can be caused by other illnesses, such as sexually transmitted infections. If your symptoms are caused by a different illness, a different treatment may be necessary.

Treatment at UHS:

If you experience UTI symptoms, please get medical advice. Infections that are treated earlier will cause you less discomfort and are easier to treat. 

First call UHS, which may save you a trip. Call 734-764-8320 day or night and ask for Nurse Advice. You will leave a message and a nurse will return your call, assess your situation by phone, and may prescribe medication, provide self-care advice, and/or arrange for you to visit to UHS.  

For temporary relief of discomfort, a medication (called Uristat in non-prescription form and Pyridium by prescription) is available. This medication is not an antibiotic so will not cure a UTI. It should be used only until you are able to have a medical evaluation. This medication will cause urine and tears to turn orange. Women should not wear contact lenses while using this medication and should stop taking this medication 24 hours before any urine testing. 

If you experience UTI symptoms after treatment, it's important to seek medical advice again because your infection may require additional testing, for example to make sure that infection is gone or to identify the type of bacteria causing infection, and treatment.

Prevention

Changing personal hygiene habits can help prevent recurrent UTIs. Here are some general suggestions:

  • Urinate before and after sexual activity
  • Stay well-hydrated and urinate regularly
  • Take showers instead of baths
  • Minimize douching, and sprays or powders in the genital area
  • When potty training girls, teach them to wipe front to back

More information: