Urinary Tract Infections

From the Mayo Clinic

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system — your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract — the bladder and the urethra.

Women are at greater risk of developing a UTI than men are. Infection limited to your bladder can be painful and annoying. However, serious consequences can occur if a UTI spreads to your kidneys.

Doctors typically treat urinary tract infections with antibiotics. But you can take steps to reduce your chances of getting a UTI in the first place.

Symptoms

Urinary tract infections don't always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do they may include:

  • A strong, persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Urine that appears cloudy
  • Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored — a sign of blood in the urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain, in women — especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone

UTIs may be overlooked or mistaken for other conditions in older adults.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

Urinary tract infections can be painful, but you can take steps to ease your discomfort until antibiotics treat the infection. Follow these tips:

  • Drink plenty of water. Water helps to dilute your urine and flush out bacteria.
  • Avoid drinks that may irritate your bladder. Avoid coffee, alcohol, and soft drinks containing citrus juices or caffeine until your infection has cleared. They can irritate your bladder and tend to aggravate your frequent or urgent need to urinate.
  • Use a heating pad. Apply a warm, but not hot, heating pad to your abdomen to minimize bladder pressure or discomfort.

Many people drink cranberry juice to prevent UTIs, but there's no proven evidence that cranberry juice works to treat or prevent infection. Researchers continue to study the ability of cranberry juice or tablets to prevent UTIs, but results aren't conclusive.

If you enjoy drinking cranberry juice and feel it helps you, there's little harm in it. Just watch the calories. For most people, drinking cranberry juice is safe, but some people report an upset stomach or diarrhea.

However, don't drink cranberry juice if you're taking blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven); medications that affect the liver; or aspirin.

Prevention

You can take these steps to reduce your risk of urinary tract infections:

  • Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Drinking water helps dilute your urine and ensures that you'll urinate more frequently — allowing bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract before an infection can begin.
  • Wipe from front to back. Doing so after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
  • Empty your bladder soon after intercourse. Also, drink a full glass of water to help flush bacteria.
  • Avoid potentially irritating feminine products. Using deodorant sprays or other feminine products, such as douches and powders, in the genital area can irritate the urethra.
  • Change your birth control method. Diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth.