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  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

What’s a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urinary system, including your bladder and urethra. Anyone can get a UTI, but they’re more common if you have a vulva.

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What’s a UTI?

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is an infection in your urinary system, including the

  • bladder — the organ that collects and stores urine

  • urethra — the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body

There are two kinds of UTIs: cystitis and urethritis. Cystitis is an infection of the bladder. Urethritis is an infection of the urethra. If left untreated, either of these can spread and cause a kidney infection. So even though UTIs are really common, you’ve got to take them seriously.

What causes UTIs?

It’s pretty easy to get a urinary tract infection. Bacteria that live in the vagina, genital, and anal areas may enter the urethra, travel to the bladder, and cause an infection. This can happen during sexual activity when bacteria from your partner’s genitals, anus, fingers, or sex toys gets pushed into your urethra. UTIs can also be caused by chlamydia, gonorrhea, or other organisms.

Although UTIs aren’t spread from one person to another like STDs, having sex can lead to or worsen UTIs. But you don’t have to have sex to get a UTI. Anything that brings bacteria in contact with your urethra can cause a UTI.

You’re more likely to get a UTI if you

  • have had one before

  • have diabetes

  • are obese

  • use spermicides or a diaphragm

  • have kidney stones or other obstructions in your urinary tract

Most people aren’t able to pinpoint the exact cause of their UTI because so many things can lead to it.

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

One of the most common symptoms of a UTI is a frequent and urgent need to pee. You might feel like you need to pee all the time, even if you just went. Other UTI symptoms include:

  • pain or burning when you pee

  • bad-smelling or cloudy urine

  • blood or pus in your urine

  • soreness, pressure, or cramps in your lower belly, back, or sides

If the infection goes to your kidneys, your UTI symptoms may also include:

  • pain in your mid-back (to the right or left of the spine)

  • fever

  • chills

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • feeling tired

If you have any of these symptoms, tell your doctor right away. Kidney infections are serious and need to be treated immediately.

These symptoms aren’t always caused by a UTI. Other infections, such as STDs or vaginitis, may cause painful or frequent urination. Only a doctor or nurse can tell for sure if you have a UTI.

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