ulockd-icd-sub-menu Urinary Tract Infection | UC Irvine Health | Department of Urology

Urinary tract infections are painful and can be embarrassing.

The term "urinary tract" refers to the body's system of processing and dispelling urine. It includes the kidneys where urine is made, the bladder where urine is stored, the ureters that are tubes for transporting the urine from the kidneys to the bladder and the urethra which transports the urine from the bladder while a person is urinating.

  • A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria finds its way into the urinary tract.
  • This can happen when bacteria finds its way into the kidneys from the digestive system, or it can also happen when bacteria manages to travel through the urethra to the bladder.

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Causes of Urinary Tract Infections

One of the reasons that women may be more susceptible to urinary tract infections is that they have urethras that are shorter than men's, therefore giving bacteria a shorter distance to travel in order to reach the bladder. Additionally, sexual intercourse may increase a woman's risk of contracting a urinary tract infection, as the act can push bacteria into the urethra. Pregnant women may be subject to these infections without exhibiting the usual symptoms, making them at greater risk for the infection to travel to the kidneys.


The symptoms of a urinary tract infection may include:

  • Painful urination or a burning sensation upon urinating
  • Pressure to urinate suddenly and frequently but with only small amounts of urine released with no relief from the pressure
  • Bloody urine
  • Cloudy-appearing urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Unable to control the release of urine
  • Chills and fever
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pain, heavy feeling or tenderness in the lower abdominal area
  • Lower back pain

Treatment Options

If any of the symptoms suggest the presence of a urinary tract infection, it is important to seek a diagnosis immediately.

Treatment usually involves prescribing antibiotics and drinking large quantities of water to help flush away the infection. Symptoms usually begin to ease within a day or two after treatment begins.

Recurring Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections that recur within six months of treatment may suggest other underlying conditions that may or may not require additional treatment. For example, the problem may be caused by fecal bacteria that may only require a simple change in personal hygiene after each bowel movement.

Occasionally, recurring infections can be caused by structural anomalies within the urethra or ureters that prohibit the complete emptying of contents by the kidney or bladder. This can be diagnosed by a simple ultrasound test, but surgery may be required afterward.

Contact Our Renowned Specialists Today!

Daniel Cwikla, M.D.
General Urology
HS Assistant Clinical Professor
Dr Moskowitz-Ross
Ross Moskowitz, M.D.
General Urology
HS Assistant Clinical Professor
M. Leon Seard, II, M.D.
General Urology
HS Associate Clinical Professor, Director of Ambulatory Urologic Services

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