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Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are responsible for more than seven million visits to physicians' offices per year and about 5 five percent of all visits to primary care physicians. Approximately 40 percent of women and 12 percent of men will experience at least one symptomatic urinary tract infection during their lifetime. How do you know if you have one? What is the best treatment? The following information should help you.

What happens under normal conditions?

The urinary tract makes and stores urine, one of the waste products of your body. Urine is made in the kidneys and travels down the ureters to the bladder. The bladder serves as a storage container for urine, which is then emptied by urinating through the urethra, a tube that connects the bladder to the skin. The urethra connects to the end of the penis in a male and connects to an area above the vagina in a female.

The kidneys are a pair of fist-sized organs located in the back that serve as a filtration system to filter liquid waste from the blood and remove it from the body in the form of urine. Kidneys adjust the body's balance of various chemicals (sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and others) and monitor the blood's acidity. Certain hormones are also produced in the kidneys. These hormones help regulate blood pressure, stimulate red blood cell production and promote strong bones. The ureters are two muscular tubes that transport the urine down to the bladder.

Normal urine is sterile and contains no bacteria. However, bacteria may get into the urine from the urethra and travel into the bladder. A bladder infection is known as cystitis and a kidney infection is known as pyelonephritis. Kidney infections are much less common — but often more serious — than bladder infections.

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Information provided by the American Urological Association.