The infections are typically caused by bacteria that live in the colon. Female anatomy increases the risk, as the bacteria can easily migrate from the rectum or vagina to the urethra and into the bladder. Sexual activity is the leading cause of the infection. Changes associated with menopause also increase susceptibility to recurrent infections.
Most urinary tract infections affect the bladder and lower urinary tract. They often are referred to as cystitis or a bladder infection. Classic symptoms are the frequent urge to urinate, even if only passing small amounts, a burning sensation or pain when urinating, abdominal pain or pressure, cloudy, dark or bloody urine, or foul-smelling urine.
If the infection moves upstream to the kidneys, additional symptoms are likely, such as fatigue, weakness or feeling faint, and difficulty walking or thinking clearly. Other symptoms could include a fever of 101 F or greater, shaking and chills, upper back and side pain, and nausea or vomiting. A suspected kidney infection warrants immediate medical care to prevent the bacteria from entering the bloodstream. Kidney infection treatment may require several weeks of antibiotics.
For uncomplicated infections confined to the bladder and lower urinary tract, treatment most often is a single course of antibiotics. The most appropriate medication will depend on the strain of bacteria causing the infection. A doctor confirms the diagnosis with a urine sample.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today's health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit Mayo Clinic Health Letter Online.
About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of "the needs of the patient come first." More than 3,700 physicians, scientists and researchers, and 50,100 allied health staff work at Mayo Clinic, which has campuses in Rochester, Minn; Jacksonville, Fla; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz.; and community-based providers in more than 70 locations in southern Minnesota., western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. These locations treat more than half a million people each year.
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