What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?

Health, Home & Family
on February 19, 2012

The signs that you may have a urinary tract infection can be subtle or not at all subtle. If you have never had an infection like this before, you should know what a urinary tract infection is and how to spot the telltale indicators. The more proactive you can be, the better.

What is a urinary tract infection? Any infection that starts in the urinary tract is considered a urinary tract infection. There are several parts to the urinary tract — kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra — and any one of them can become infected. Several bacteria and even viruses can cause a urinary tract infection.

Signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection. This type of infection doesn't always have clear symptoms. The Mayo Clinic states that sometimes there are no symptoms at all. When symptoms do present themselves, a variety of well-defined manifestations can occur. These symptoms include:

  • A burning feeling when urinating
  • A constant sense of having to urinate
  • Passing small quantities of urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Red, pink or brownish urine (a indication of blood in the urine)
  • Pelvic pain or discomfort (woman)
  • Rectal pain or discomfort (man)
  • Strong smelling urine

Specific symptoms. The type of urinary tract infection produces different symptoms. Depending upon which part of the urinary tract is infected you may experience:

  • Urethral infection — burning sensation with urination
  • Bladder infection — blood in urine; frequent, uncomfortable or painful urination; pelvic pressure and pain; lower abdominal discomfort
  • Kidney infection — upper back pain and/or pain in the side, vomiting, nausea, fever and/or chills

When to call the doctor. Anytime you have symptoms that are of concern, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible. With urinary tract infections, you may need a urinalysis and culture performed in order to receive proper and effective treatment. If you have any or all of the symptoms, call your doctor for an appointment. Getting a diagnosis, lab tests and your doctor’s opinion are crucial to timely and appropriate medical care.