Ask the Doctor
Questions about kidney disease? Risk factors? Signs and symptoms? Are you concerned about yourself, a friend or family member? Ask Dr. Spry.
Every year, urinary tract infections account for nearly 10 million doctor visits. One in five women will have at least one urinary tract infection in her lifetime.
A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria (germs) get into the urinary tract and multiply. The urinary tract is made up of the bladder, urethra and the two ureters and kidneys. These germs usually enter the urinary tract through the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body, and travel up to the bladder. The result is redness, swelling and pain in the urinary tract. If a UTI is not treated promptly, the bacteria can move up to the kidneys and cause a more serious type of infection, called pyelonephritis.
Yes. While anyone can get them, some people are more likely than others.
Some people have no symptoms, but most have one or more of the following:
If the infection spreads to the kidneys and becomes more severe, it may result in pain in the lower back as well as fever, chills, nausea and vomiting. See your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
Your doctor will test a sample of your urine for bacteria and blood cells. Different medications called antibiotics may also be tested to see which one works best against the bacteria. UTIs treated with antibiotics often clear up after one or two days of treatment. However, your doctor may ask you to take the antibiotic for one or two weeks to make sure the infection has been cured. In addition your doctor may suggest you take a pain reliever, use a heating pad and drink plenty of fluids.
If this happens, the doctor may order some special tests:
Women who get UTIs three or more times a year should speak to their doctor. The doctor may order special tests (see previous question) and recommend one of the following dosages of an antibiotic:
No, but UTIs may be more serious during pregnancy because they are more likely to travel to the kidneys. A pregnant woman with a UTI should consult her doctor to avoid potential problems like high blood pressure and premature delivery of her baby.
Yes. The following steps may help to prevent UTIs:
Yes, though less often than adults. Girls, especially between ages 4 and 8, are more likely to have UTIs than boys. Infants who are born with an abnormality of their urinary tract have an increased chance of getting a UTI. Parents should look for the following signs of a possible UTI in their children:
If the infection spreads to the kidneys, the child may also have high fever and back pain and experience vomiting.
In most cases, UTIs can be treated successfully without causing kidney damage. UTIs caused by a kidney stone or (in men) an enlarged prostate gland can damage the kidneys if the problem is not corrected and the infection continues. UTIs in young children can may sometimes cause kidney damage if not treated promptly.
If you would like more information, please contact us.
©2013 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.