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Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

youngwoman2.jpgWhat is a UTI or bladder infection?

A urinary tract (UTI) or bladder infection occurs when bacteria gain access to and multiply in the bladder.  Bacteria infect the bladder by way of the urethra, a small, short tube that opens near the vagina.  The placement and size of the urethra make bladder infections very common in women.  Men rarely develop bladder infections because their urethras are longer.

Anyone with a vagina is at risk for UTIs, regardless od gender identity or sexual orientation.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms include:

  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Increased frequency
  • A feeling of urinary urgency
  • Uncontrolled dribbling of urine
  • Lower abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Blood noticed on toilet tissue

Fever does not usually occur with UTIs.

What are the risks?

An uncomplicated UTI is not dangerous if treated promptly.  If untreated, bacteria may also infect the kidney, producing a more serious illness (pyelonephritis).  Chills, fever with back pain, nausea and vomiting may indicate kidney involvement. Contact Hall Health Center or go to an emergency room if these symptoms develop.

How is a UTI diagnosed?

Expect to give a sample of your urine when you visit a provider for UTI symptoms.  When urine is examined under a microscope, white and red blood cells and bacteria may be found.  Abnormal amounts of these may indicate an infection.  Your urine may also be tested to find the type of bacteria responsible for the infection.

Vaginal infections or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs like chlamydia) can cause symptoms exactly like those of a UTI, so a genital exam may be necessary.

What is the treatment?

You will be treated with one of several antibiotics that will kill the responsible bacteria.  It may be prescribed as a 3-day or 7-day regimen, depending on your circumstance.  Each antibiotic has specific directions.  Please be sure you understand clearly how to take them and that you take all the pills prescribed with a full glass of water.  Finish all your medication, even if you feel better before you run out.

There is some evidence suggesting antibiotics may decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills, the patch and other hormonal contraceptives.  If you are using a hormonal method of contraception, it is advised that you use a back-up method such as condoms while you are taking your medication and for a week after finishing the medication.

If your symptoms have not completely resolved after finishing all your medication, it is important that you contact Hall Health Center or the medical provider that treated you.  You may need a different medication.

How to prevent UTIs

The following may help prevent future infections:

  • Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.  Alcoholic, carbonated and caffeinated beverages may increase symptoms.
  • Empty your bladder as soon as possible when you feel the urge to urinate.
  • Urinate before and after penetrative sex and drink a glass of water at that time.  This will cause you to urinate again in a few hours which helps flush out bacteria.
  • Practice good hygiene (wiping front to back) after a bowel movement and urination.
  • Avoid putting hands or objects in the vagina that have been in or around the anus/rectum.
  • Avoid deodorized feminine hygiene products.
  • Reconsider spermicide use as it has been shown to increase the incidence of UTIs in some women.

Additional resources

If you need an appointment to be checked for yeast, contact Hall Health Center.

Read other Hall Health Center sexual health articles.

Planned Parenthood's article on UTIs

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse article on kidney infections

If you have any questions and are a UW student or established Hall Health patient, you may call one of our Consulting Nurses for further information.


Authored by: Hall Health Center Women's Health Clinic staff

Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Women's Health Clinic staff, January 2014