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Infections can occur in any part of the urinary tract. They are caused when bacteria, usually from the digestive system, reach the urinary tract. If bacteria are growing in the urethra, the infection is called urethritis. The bacteria may travel up the urinary tract and cause a bladder infection, called cystitis. An untreated infection may go farther into the body and cause pyelonephritis, a kidney infection. Some people have chronic or recurrent urinary tract infections.
Symptoms of urinary tract infections may include:
- A frequent urge to urinate
- Pain or burning in the bladder or urethra during urination
- Cloudy or reddish urine
- Fatigue or shakiness
- In women, pressure above the pubic bone
- In men, a feeling of fullness in the rectum.
If the infection is in your kidneys, you may:
- Be nauseous
- Feel pain in your back or side
- Have a fever.
Since frequent urination can be a sign of high blood glucose (high blood sugar), you and your doctor should also evaluate recent blood glucose monitoring results.
In order to make a urinary tract diagnosis, your doctor will ask for a urine sample, which will be analyzed for bacteria and pus. If you have frequent urinary tract infections, your doctor may order further tests. An ultrasound exam provides images from the echo patterns of sound waves bounced back from internal organs. An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) uses a special dye to enhance x-ray images of your urinary tract.
Another test, called a cystoscopy, allows the doctor to view the inside of the bladder.
Early diagnosis and urinary tract infection treatment are important to prevent more serious infections. To clear up a urinary tract infection, the doctor will probably prescribe an antibiotic based on the bacteria in your urine.
Current recommendations are for a full seven-day course of antibiotic treatment in people with diabetes, instead of the shorter course used for other people. Kidney infections are more serious and may require several weeks of antibiotic treatment. Drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent another infection.