Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that can affect the bladder, the kidneys and the tubes connected to them.
Anyone can get them, but they're particularly common in women. Some women experience them regularly (called recurrent UTIs).
UTIs can be painful and uncomfortable, but usually pass within a few days and can be easily treated with antibiotics.
This page is about UTIs in adults. There is a separate article about UTIs in children.
Infections of the bladder (cystitis) or urethra (tube that carries urine out of the body) are known as lower UTIs. These can cause:
Infections of the kidneys or ureters (tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder) are known as upper UTIs. These can cause the above symptoms and also:
Lower UTIs are common and aren't usually a cause for major concern. Upper UTIs can be serious if left untreated, as they could damage the kidneys or spread to the bloodstream.
It's a good idea to see your doctor if you think you might have a UTI, particularly if:
Your doctor can rule out other possible causes of your symptoms by testing a sample of your urine and can prescribe antibiotics if you do have an infection.
Antibiotics are usually recommended because untreated UTIs can potentially cause serious problems if they're allowed to spread.
UTIs are normally treated with a short course of antibiotics.
Most women are given a three-day course of antibiotic capsules or tablets. Men, pregnant women and people with more serious symptoms may need a slightly longer course.
Your symptoms will normally pass within three to five days of starting treatment. But make sure you complete the whole course of antibiotics that you've been prescribed, even if you're feeling better.
Over-the-counter painkillers can help with any pain. Drinking plenty of fluids may also help you feel better.
Return to your doctor if your symptoms don't improve, get worse or come back after treatment.
UTIs occur when the urinary tract becomes infected, usually by bacteria. In most cases, bacteria from the gut enter the urinary tract through the urethra.
This may occur when wiping your bottom or having sex, for example, but often it's not clear why it happens.
The following may increase your risk of getting a UTI:
Women may be more likely to get UTIs because their urethra is shorter than a man's and is closer to their anus (back passage).
If you get UTIs frequently, there are some things you can try that may stop it coming back. However, it's not clear how effective most of these measures are.
These measures include:
Speak to your doctor if these measures don't work. They may suggest taking a long-term course of antibiotics or they may give you a prescription for antibiotics you can use as soon as you experience symptoms of a UTI.
There's currently little evidence to suggest that drinking cranberry juice or using probiotics significantly reduces your chances of getting UTIs.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.