Ask the Experts: How do I know if I Have a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

 How do I know if I Have a UTI?

Each year, urinary tract infections (UTIs) account for close to 10 million doctor visits. A UTI can occur when bacteria gets into your urine and settles in your bladder. Women are four times more likely than men to get a UTI, and the summertime may bring with it an increased risk to get one.

Signs of a UTI may include:

  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • A strong sense of urgency to urinate
  • Pain in your back or side near the ribs
  • Pressure in your lower belly
  • Urine that is cloudy, bloody or has a strong odor
  • A sensation that you are unable to completely empty your bladder
  • Fever or chills

And consider the following facts as you look to prevent UTIs:

  • Urinating after sex may help flush out bacteria that might have gotten into the urinary tract during intercourse.
  • Certain forms of birth control, such as spermicidal foam and diaphragms, can increase the risk of UTI in some women. Talk to your health care provider about your options.
  • Don't put off urinating when you need to and don't rush to finish. Incomplete bladder emptying can increase your risk of UTI.
  • After urinating, wipe from front to back to keep from sweeping bacteria from the rectum or anus toward the vagina and urethra.

Dr. Kathleen Kobashi is an urologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash.