Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

Infections of the urethra, bladder, and kidneys are all considered urinary tract infections. Most UTIs are caused by bacteria (commonly E. coli) from the anal area being spread to the lower urinary tract, where they multiply and cause an infection. Urinary tract infections of the bladder are very common in women and usually not serious.

Most bladder infections/UTIs cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent urination, but passing only a small amount of urine each time.
  • The urge to urinate, but little or no urine is passed.
  • Burning with urination or right after.
  • Not much force to the urinary stream.
  • Blood/pus in the urine (in more serious cases).
  • Discomfort in the pelvis or low back. Kidney infections often include fevers, headache, backache, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.


UTIs are diagnosed by a simple urine test, called a urinalysis. After cleaning the genital area around the urethra with special wipes, a small amount is urinated into the toilet and then a small amount into a specific container. Lab techs will test the urine to see if there is bacteria or signs of an infection. A urine culture may be used to determine what bacteria is there, especially if you had a UTI recently.


UTIs are treated with antibiotics. Discomfort is usually relieved within several days, but it is extremely important to finish the medication as prescribed. This will help prevent your UTI from reoccurring or getting worse and the infection spreading to your kidneys.

You may be given medicine to help the pain while the antibiotic starts working. This medicine will turn your urine and vaginal discharge bright orange for a couple of days.


  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of non-caffeinated fluids (mostly water but may also include cranberry juice).
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Soak in a warm tub if needed to help with initial symptoms.
  • Return to clinic if instructed to re-test urine after treatment or if symptoms are not improving.
  • Return to clinic immediately if symptoms get worse, or if you develop fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or severe back pain.

Preventing UTIs 

  • Drink lots of fluids (6 to 8 glasses daily of water and non-caffeinated fluids) to help flush bacteria from the body.
  • Urinate before and after sexual activity. This avoids extra pressure on the bladder and eliminates bacteria which can enter the bladder/urethra during sexual activity involving the genital area.
  • When you feel the urge to urinate, do so—don’t hold it. Delaying urination strains the bladder and allows bacteria that may be in the bladder to remain longer.
  • After going to the bathroom, women should wipe front to back (vagina to anus). Wiping back to front tends to transfer bacteria from the anal area directly to the vaginal area.
  • Keep the genitalia clean, but stay away from scented soap, bubble baths, feminine hygiene sprays, wipes, and douches. These disturb the normal cleansing action of the genitalia, increasing susceptibility to both vaginal infection and urinary tract infection.
  • Sometimes a method of contraception such as spermicide, sponge, or a diaphragm may be a cause of recurring UTIs; talk to your health care provider if you’d like to try another method of birth control.
  • Take showers or short baths instead of soaking in the tub. (Exception: Soaking may help relieve the initial pain of a UTI.)
  • Wear loosely fitted clothing and cotton undergarments. Avoid tight pants, leggings, spandex, and synthetic clothing materials in the genital area.

If you have questions about UTIs or other health care concerns, call the Student Health Center at 812-855-4011 for more information.

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