Overview

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common medical complaint. It is estimated that up to 40 percent of women will have a UTI at some time in their lives. Also called bladder infections or cystitis, a UTI occurs when bacteria enter the bladder, usually through the urethra (urine tube), and begin to multiply.

Urine contains fluids, salts and waste products but is sterile or free of bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing organisms. A UTI occurs when bacteria from another source, such as the nearby anus, gets into the urethra. The most common bacteria found to cause UTIs is Escherichia coli (E. coli). Other bacteria can cause UTI, but E. coli is the culprit about 90 percent of the time.

E. coli normally lives harmlessly in the human intestinal tract, but it can cause serious infections if it gets into the urinary tract. In women, the trip from the anus to the urethra is a short one. This is the reason why "wiping front to back" after using the toilet is helpful in preventing UTI.

An untreated UTI can move up to the kidneys and cause an even more serious infection, so prompt diagnosis and treatment is important. Sexually active women, pregnant women and older women all may be at increased risk for UTI.

Our Approach to Urinary Tract Infections

UCSF offers personalized, sensitive care for common women's health problems, including urinary tract infections. Our mission is to provide every woman who comes to us with the highest quality care and the information she needs to make informed decisions about her health.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

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