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What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

If you’re a woman, chances are you know firsthand what it’s like to have experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI) or know someone who has. UTIs can be inconvenient, painful, and uncomfortable; fortunately, these infections are usually very treatable with antibiotics. (1, 2)

UTIs are infections that can occur when bacteria, or rarely fungi, get into the body’s urinary system (kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra). They’re extremely common: UTIs are responsible for nearly 10 million healthcare visits each year, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

UTIs are responsible for nearly 10 million healthcare visits each year, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

And while anyone can get UTIs, women are at particular risk because they have a shorter urethra, which allows bacteria to reach the bladder more easily; plus, their urethral opening is closer to the vagina and anus, which is the main source of UTI-causing germs like E.coli. In fact, women get UTIs a whopping 30 times more often than men, and more than half of women will have experienced at least one UTI in their lifetimes. (1, 2).

Your stage in life can also affect your risk for UTIs: Women of childbearing age who use certain birth control options like the diaphragm are at higher risk for UTIs as our women who use spermicidal agents (3). Regardless of age, sexual activity increases your risk for UTIs and having a new sexual partner increases your risk even more (4). Sexual activity increases your risk for UTIs because bacteria transmitted during sexual activity do not have far to travel to reach the urethra and from there the bladder (5). After menopause, the reduction of estrogen causes the vaginal tissue to become thin and dry, which can make it easier for bacteria to thrive and lead to a UTI. There is also a decrease in Lactobacillus bacteria in the vagina and an increase in pH, which also may contribute to the increase in UTIs after menopause. (1, 2)

If you have a UTI, you may experience symptoms like a frequent need to urinate (but not being able to produce much when you go), a burning sensation when you pee, and cloudy or blood-tinged urine. Serious symptoms such as lower-back pain, fever and chills, or nausea and vomiting could be signs of kidney infection and must be seen by a doctor right away. (1, 2)

UTIs can be uncomfortable, painful, and inconvenient, but they don’t have to disrupt your busy life. We’ve researched smart prevention tips and treatment options for you; read on to learn how you can get a handle on UTIs with our curated tips.


1. Urinary Tract Infections. Office on Women’s Health. Updated January 31, 2019. Accessed March 28, 2019.

2. Urinary Tract Infections. National Kidney Foundation. Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2019.