A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a microbial infection that impacts any part of the urinary tract. The majority of UTIs affect the bladder and the urethra, which comprise the lower urinary tract. This type of UTI is also referred to as cystitis.
UTIs can also affect the upper urinary tract, comprised of the kidneys and ureters (10-inch long narrow tubes that drain urine from the kidneys into the bladder). Although upper tract infections are more rare than lower tract UTIs, they’re also usually more severe.
UTIs are one of the most common infections in humans. Estimates are that 40 to 60 percent of all women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. According to a 2015 study published Nature Reviews Microbiology, UTIs are responsible for approximately 10.5 million doctor visits per year in the U.S.
While women are at greater risk of developing a UTI than men, men do get the infection, often due to an enlarged prostate which blocks the flow of urine. This enables bacteria to invade the urinary tract.
Symptoms of a lower tract UTI include:
- Cloudy, bloody, dark urine
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Pelvic pain or pressure in women
- Rectal pain in men
- Urgency of urination
- Urine with strong, foul odor
The lower tract UTI can spread further as the bacteria moves up from the bladder via the ureters. Symptoms of an upper tract UTI include:
- Tenderness and pain in the upper back and along sides
UTIs are treated in a variety of ways, depending on their cause. Test results to determine the organism causing the infection confirm the diagnosis. Bacterial UTIs—the most common type—are treated with antibiotics. In the case of less common causes (fungi or viruses), medications include antifungals or antivirals.
Symptoms of UTIs generally abate within several days of starting antibiotics. However, some antibiotics are losing effectiveness due to the prevalence of antibiotic-resistance bacteria. This is due to misuse and overuse of antibiotics, since many of these medications have been used repeatedly for UTIs over the years. Consequently, UTIs are often not clearing up.
Drinking lots of water has long been prescribed as a helpful measure to prevent or alleviate UTIs, and hopefully, may help to solve the problem of antibiotic resistance. Greater amounts of water lead to more frequent urination, which helps flush UTI-causing bacteria from the urinary tract.
This view was strengthened by a recent study, presented in October 2017, which emphasizes the role of drinking water to flush out the infection. The study suggests that those women prone to UTIs may be able to prevent them by drinking lots of water; specifically, an additional three pints per day (equal to six cups). Women in the study who increased their water intake by this level were half as likely to get UTIs as women who did not.
Tips for Increasing Water Consumption
To make a conscious effort to increase water intake, consider the following:
- Carry or place water bottle(s) near you at all times
- Designate times to drink a glass of water (e.g. on waking and with each meal)
- Eat watery foods, mainly fruits and vegetables, which have an 80 to 90+ percent water content
- Flavor water with fruit slices or flavor drops
- Include herbal tea in your daily intake
- Use a water tracking app
We Are UTI Specialists
At Partners In Urology, we treat UTIs and other urologic conditions. With over 25 years of experience, we put our patients first, treating them with care and dignity. Read more on UTIs on our website.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.