Urinary Tract Infections Information

Basic Information on Urinary Tract Infections

Treatment for Urinary Tract Infection
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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are among the most common bacterial infections in women, and the most common bacterial infection among elderly people. 

A UTI typically results when normal bacterial flora (germs that reside on your private parts) ascend up through your urethra (pee tube) and into your bladder. The term UTI more generally refers to an infection that occurs at any level of the urinary tract including not only the bladder but also the urethra, ureters or kidneys (pyelonephritis).

Because of their anatomy—specifically a shorter urethra (pee tube)—women experience UTIs more frequently than men. In other words, the penis with its longer urethra acts as a barrier to the ascension of bacteria. The prevalence of UTI among young women is about 2 to 3 percent but rises to 10 percent in women aged 65. Men with enlarged prostates are also at a greater risk for UTI.

Dealing with a UTI can be tricky for several reasons. First, it can be hard to diagnose a UTI. Second, concerns about antibiotic misuse abound among health care practitioners. Third, some bacteria that cause UTIs are resistant to antibiotics especially among institutionalized patients (think people living in nursing homes).

Like normal urine itself, the bladder typically harbors no bacteria and is sterile. When bacteria is introduced into the urogenital system, however, various complications can result—some of which can result in loss of life.


In this article, I'm focusing on the garden variety presentation of UTI: acute cystitis or acute uncomplicated urinary infection. Of note, uncomplicated UTIs typically occur in women without anatomic abnormalities and stop at the level of the bladder without bacteria ascending into the kidney (a condition called pyelonephritis).

Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Here are some possible symptoms of UTI:

  • excess urination (polyuria)
  • pain on urination
  • cramping
  • cloudy urine
  • bloody urine

Oftentimes, a UTI presents without clinical symptoms (asymptomatic). 

Diagnosis of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

In addition to clinical symptoms, an uncomplicated UTI can also be diagnosed using a urinalysis or a clean-catch urine culture.  A clean-catch urine sample is a urine sample collected after you first pee a little into the toilet bowl; by peeing first, you clear your urine of any  bacteria lingering on your genitalia that could interfere with the test.

Treatment of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Asymptomatic UTI is usually considered an incidental finding and research shows that there's little benefit to treating asymptomatic UTI in either community or institutionalized settings (think nursing homes).  However, pregnant women should be tested and treated for asymptomatic UTI because this condition is associated with an increased risk of the baby being born premature or low-birth-weight as well as increased risk that the mother will develop pyelonephritis (kidney infection).

However, symptomatic UTIs need to be treated.

The effective treatment of symptomatic UTI depends on the bacteria causing the illness.

Here are some medications typically used to treat symptomatic UTI:

A special note about aminoglycosides:  Although aminoglycosides are known to cause ototoxicity (hearing damage) and nephrotoxicity (kidney damage), when used for short periods (2 to 3 days) the risk of such adverse effects is small. Nevertheless, people with renal failure should not receive aminoglycosides.

Oral treatment of a UTI usually lasts between 3 and 5 days.

Depending on the severity of disease and patient adherence with medication regimens, a physician or other health care provider may choose to treat an uncomplicated UTI with an intramuscular injection of Rocephin or a shot of gentamycin or tobramycin.

Resistant bugs like vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus  that cause UTI are treated with nitrofurantoin, linezolid, tigecycline and so forth.

More than 75 percent of women who receive antibiotic therapy for UTI are cured of illness. However, recurrences are common.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Prevention

Diseases like diabetes are associated with an increased risk of UTIs; thus, proper management of such disease decreases the risk of UTIs. Many people also claim that cranberry juice can help prevent symptomatic UTI, and some research suggests that older women who drink a lot of cranberry juice experience fewer UTIs. Another risk factor for the development of acute cystitis is the use of catheters.

If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms suggestive of UTI, you should make an appointment to see a primary care physician for treatment. Untreated symptomatic UTI can progress to more serious and deadly infections like pyelonephritis (kidney infection) that can result in hospitalization and loss of life.


Nicolle LE. Chapter 127. Urinary Tract Infections. In: Halter JB, Ouslander JG, Tinetti ME, Studenski S, High KP, Asthana S. eds. Hazzard's Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, 6e. New York, NY: Accessed November 15, 2015.

Schwartz BS. Urinary Tract Infections. In: Levinson W. eds. Review of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, 13e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014. Accessed November 15, 2015.

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