An infection in your urinary system is known as a urinary tract infection (UTI), and anyone can get them. Since untreated UTIs can lead to serious complications, knowing how to spot one is vital.
What are the signs of a UTI?
Spotting a UTI early means you can receive prompt medical attention, increasing the odds of a smooth recovery. Some symptoms to look out for include…
1. A Strong, Consistent Urge to Urinate
A UTI may make you feel like you urgently need to use the restroom more often than normal. However, when you do urinate, you may only pass a small amount of urine.
This symptom is more than just an annoyance.
Because the urge to urinate can hit day or night, this symptom naturally impacts your overall sense of well-being as well as your ability to sleep, work, and play.
How do UTIs cause frequent urination?
Frequent urination can occur when any part of the urinary tract is infected. Often, though, the lining of your urethra and bladder become inflamed. Since the bladder’s walls are irritated, the nerves there signal that you need to empty your bladder. However, because your bladder is not actually full, the amount of urine that you release is usually less than normal.
In addition to an increase in the frequency of urination, there may be an increase in the sense of urgency. In other words, your bladder will create a sensation of pressure that makes you feel like you have to go to the restroom right now—even if you actually don’t need to empty your bladder at all.
When you go, it’s not just often; it’s painful.
When you urinate, you may notice the following related sign that also points to a UTI…
2. A Burning Sensation While Urinating
If you feel a burning sensation when urinating, there is a good chance that you have a urinary tract infection.
Why do UTIs cause painful or burning sensations when urinating?
Usually, a UTI affects the urethra or the bladder itself. This fact is one of the reasons why women get UTIs more than men: they have a shorter urethra, so it is easier for bacteria to cause an infection. Women may additionally experience inflammation in or around the vagina.
These areas of inflammation can be further irritated when exposed to urine. Why? Because urine is acidic. So, exposing the inflamed, sensitive infected parts of your urinary tract system to something acidic naturally causes pain and discomfort.
Does your urine look funny?
When you notice frequent and painful urination, check your urine. It may provide another sign of a UTI…
Normally, your urine should be clear, which indicates good health and hydration. So, it’s not uncommon for a person to have cloudy urine if they are mildly dehydrated. However, once they hydrate themselves, this cloudiness often goes away.
How does a UTI affect urine’s appearance?
UTIs can also change the appearance of one’s urine. It may take on a cloudy look, resulting from blood or even pus appearing in the urine. The cloudy appearance also results from the fact that your body is fighting an infection. Now, when you have an infection, your body begins to produce a large number of white blood cells. Some of these white blood cells will find their way into your urine, causing it to become cloudy or milky.
Is it dehydration or a UTI?
If you have cloudy urine that does not clear up on its own after hydrating yourself, it may be a good idea to have a medical professional evaluate the situation.
Are you having problems urinating at all?
It is likely that your cloudy urine is caused by a urinary tract infection if it is accompanied by other symptoms like…
4. Difficulty Passing Large Amounts of Urine
Oliguria is the medical term for decreased output of urine; typically, it refers to when someone’s urine output is less than 400 mL, or 13.5 ounces over a 24-hour period.
How does a UTI cause this symptom?
UTIs can lead to a blockage in the urinary tract, which in turn reduces the flow of urine. In fact, a UTI obstruction may completely block the urinary tract, which can then affect the kidneys.
It is more common for a urinary tract obstruction to cause a urinary tract infection than the other way around, though. Why? Because when the urinary tract is functioning normally, bacteria are rapidly eliminated from the bladder. However, when there is a blockage, bacteria does not leave the bladder quickly, increasing the odds of a person developing a UTI.
When you do urinate, how does it smell?
When you do finally pass some urine, be sure to take note of how everything smells…
5. Foul Smelling Urine
A person with a urinary tract infection may notice that their urine has a fishy smell.
How does this symptom happen?
In many cases, the culprit for this smell is an odorous chemical called trimethylamine oxide. In other words, if your urine smells like fish, it is likely that there is trimethylamine bacteria present. Why? Because when your body is healthy, it breaks down trimethylamine, preventing that fishy smell. However, when you have a UTI, there is an overabundance of this bacteria, hence the foul odor.
Is it a UTI or something else?
Fishy-smelling urine on its own does not indicate a medical emergency. Having fishy smelling urine in conjunction with some of the other symptoms, though, may indicate an infection. If the symptoms do not clear up quickly, you should seek medical attention.
Does your urine really look weird?
If you notice a fishy smell, take a good look at your urine again; you’ll want to check for…
6. A Change in Urine Color
A UTI can do more than affect the smell and transparency of your urine; it can also change its color.
What will the urine look like?
Specifically, those with a UTI may notice that their urine looks red, pink, or even the color of cola. For some individuals, this condition may be the only sign that they have an infection; this is especially true for older adults.
How does a UTI cause urine to change colors?
These changes in urine color are often due to blood in the urine. With a urinary tract infection, the lining of your urinary tract is inflamed and irritated, which allows red blood cells to find their way into your urine.
Is there a solution?
The only way to stop your urinary tract from bleeding? Antibiotics. Home remedies are not able to cure these infections, nor can they stop the bleeding.
It’s not just your urine that’s affected; everything down south feels off.
A UTI isn’t just able to affect your urine; it can also cause discomfort in the form of…
7. Rectal and Pelvic Pain
Pelvic pain is another common sign of a UTI, and it’s more common in women. Often, the pain is felt in the center of the pelvis and around the pubic bone. If the infection is in the kidneys, there may also be side or back pain. Men may additionally experience rectal pain.
How do UTIs cause pelvic pain?
UTI-induced inflammation for one can cause discomfort. When paired with blockage, there’s increased pressure on the pelvis and urinary tract system, causing discomfort and even pain.
What if your pain isn’t just in the pelvis?
While pelvic pain is uncomfortable, it’s typically a sign of a normal UTI. When that pain is in the upper back or side, though, it could be a sign of a much more serious infection, especially when paired with this next symptom…
Have a low-grade fever? If you have some of the previously listed symptoms too, it might be the case that you have a UTI.
How does a UTI cause fever?
When you have a urinary tract infection, your body recognizes that your system is being attacked by a foreign invader. A number of processes are then initiated to fight off the invader. One of the processes is the creation of chemicals called pyrogens. When released into your bloodstream, they reach the hypothalamus in your brain, which serves as your body’s thermostat. Once there, they signal that it’s time to heat things up. Since some bacteria can only live at certain temperatures, cranking up the heat can kill the infection-causing bacteria.
What if your fever gets worse?
So, when you have a UTI, a low-grade fever may be present as your body fights the infection. Fevers that reach 104°F or higher can lead to serious consequences, though, especially for children. In fact, a high fever may indicate that the kidneys themselves are infected, which is a much more serious type of UTI; this is especially true when paired with the following signs…
9. Nausea and Vomiting
Fever, nausea, vomiting, and other UTI symptoms? See a doctor right away.
When left untreated, a UTI can spread to the kidneys. When this happens, nausea and vomiting may occur. As the infection gets worse, the symptoms can become more severe. These severe symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that you are dealing with something serious and need medical attention right away.
How does a UTI cause nausea and vomiting?
So, how does a UTI cause nausea and vomiting when the urinary tract system doesn’t include the stomach? Well, a UTI can trigger reactions from the brain and central nervous system, telling the body that there is a serious disease that needs addressing. One of the ways the body fights infection? Expelling foreign invaders from the body through vomiting.
Can’t stop shivering, either?
As mentioned earlier, another attempt to thwart the infection is through raising your body temperature; when a fever alone doesn’t do the trick, your body will then initiate a new process in an attempt to crank up the heat…
10. Shaking and Chills
The reason you get shaking and chills with a urinary tract infection is similar to why you get a fever. Namely, your body is squeezing and relaxing muscles to generate heat, in the hopes of killing the invading bacteria.
This symptom is serious.
Unfortunately, shaking and chills are signs of a serious UTI—likely one that’s affecting the kidneys. Why are infections that spread to the kidneys dangerous? Firstly, without prompt medical attention, this type of infection permanently damage these organs. Secondly, the infection-causing bacteria may then seep into the bloodstream, which can have deadly consequences.
UTIs often do not go away on their own, and left untreated they can have devastating consequences. If you think you have a UTI? See a doctor, get tested, and get treated.
What are some UTI treatment options?
When you receive treatment, you may expect the following…
Prescription Treatment Options
Antibiotics are your best bet when it comes to treating a urinary tract infection. Some of the most commonly prescribed medications for this condition include:
- Cephalexin (Keflex)
- Ciprofloxacin (Cetraxal, Cipro XR, Otiprio)
- Fosfomycin (Monurol)
- Gentamicin (Gentak)
- Levofloxacin (Levaquin)
- Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Macrobid)
- Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, etc.)
How long should you take antibiotics?
Take all of your antibiotics, even if you feel better. Not taking a full course of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. In other words, not taking all of your medication can lead to super bugs that are harder to treat.
What are some home remedies for mild, uncomplicated UTIs?
What are some over-the-counter ways to fight this kind of infection?…
Drink Lots of Water
Drinking water is a great way to both help mild, uncomplicated UTIs and prevent them from occurring in the first place.
How can water fight a UTI?
The idea of drinking lots of water to fight a UTI is simple: the water works to “flush out” bad bacteria from your system. Specifically, drinking water dilutes urine. Diluted urine will travel through your body faster. The result? Bacteria has less time to stay in your body and cause problems.
How much water should you drink?
Everyone’s needs will vary. The standard recommendation for adults, though, is 6-8 eight-ounce glasses every day.
Having a hard time reaching your daily water goals?
Don’t worry. There’s another fluid you can drink to help fight off UTIs…
Drink Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
Cranberry juice is tasty, may help mild with UTIs, and may even prevent a bladder infection from happening in the first place. Win-win-win.
How does unsweetened cranberry juice fight a UTI?
There are a few hypotheses for why this drink may help with this condition. Some believe that it’s due to cranberries’ concentration of antioxidants, which have antibacterial characteristics. Other research suggests that this juice prevents E. coli from attacking and attaching to the urinary tract.
The best treatment for a UTI?
Of course, the best way to treat a UTI is to not get one in the first place. So, what are some of the best ways to prevent a UTI?…
Take Some Vitamin C
A urinary tract infection naturally means harmful bacteria in your system. One way to deal with these bacteria? Vitamin C.
How does vitamin C help with a UTI?
When you intake vitamin C, you can make your urine more acidic. Importantly, this acidity can stunt bacteria growth, which may improve symptoms of a UTI or reduce the risk of developing one in the first place.
Where can you get vitamin C?
The best sources of vitamins and minerals are from natural sources. Foods high in vitamin C include:
- leafy greens
A supplement of 500 – 1000 mg may also help.
The easiest preventative method of all?
The easiest way to prevent UTIs? It’s quick, natural, and free…
Urinate, Urinate, Urinate
Have “to go”? Go. Don’t wait.
How does urinating help with a UTI?
The longer bacteria stays in the body, the more chances they have to cause infections. Don’t give bacteria those chances. Flush them out of the body—literally—with a bathroom break.
When should you urinate?
When you feel the need “to go,” don’t wait. Going to the bathroom both before and after sex can also help clear out bacteria, further reducing the risk of infection.
Don’t forget to use toilet paper properly.
If you wipe after using the restroom, wipe front to back, as this movement reduces the risk of fecal bacteria reaching the urethra (which can lead to infection).