Urinary tract infections can cause pain and other feelings of discomfort, often while urinating. The urine also may look different from usual.
You may know by the way your urine looks and smells
With a urinary tract infection, especially in the lower urinary tract (the bladder or urethra), urine in the toilet bowl may look cloudy (whitish instead of clear pale yellow) and less easy to see through, or reddish with traces of blood in it.
Many other conditions can make urine look cloudy or bloody, too, though.
Tip-off: If your urine looks cloudy and smells bad, you probably have an infection.
You may know by the way you feel
These are the typical symptoms of urinary tract infections:
The usual way for a urinary tract infection to announce itself is with a strong burning sensation (dysuria) during urination.
Typically, people who have a urinary tract infection find that they want to urinate more often than usual, but only a small amount of urine comes out each time. Health care professionals call this frequent need to urinate "frequency."
Besides wanting to urinate often, people may feel each time the strong need to urinate immediately. That need is called "urgency."
Pain and muscle spasms
Some women who have urinary tract infections do not feel a burning sensation when they urinate. Instead, they feel pain and muscle spasms in the genital region either while they are urinating or immediately afterward.
Pressure over the pubic bone
Almost every woman who has a urinary tract infection feels pressure or discomfort in the up-and-down center (midline) of the abdomen just above the pubic bone. Pain or pressure in that place is called suprapubic pain or pressure.
Back pain during a urinary tract infection is an important clue to tell the health care professional. That combination of symptoms can mean a kidney infection (pyelonephritis).
Chills and fever
People who have a simple infection of the lower urinary tract usually do not have chills and fever. Having chills and fever suggests a more serious infection, such as a kidney infection (pyelonephritis) or bacteremia, in which bacteria from an infection have entered the bloodstream and are circulating through the body with the blood.
Alert: A fever may be the only symptom of a urinary tract infection in an elderly person and the only symptom of a kidney infection in a child. See your doctor to be sure it's a urinary tract infection. Your symptoms could have another cause.
What else can cause the same symptoms as UTIs?
Vaginitis usually creates vaginal discharge, as well as the typical symptoms of urinary tract infections.
Vaginal discharge is fluid that is created by glands inside the vagina and cervix and flows out of the vagina every day. In the discharge are old cells from the lining of the vagina. The natural flow of discharge keeps the vagina healthy and clean.
||Profile of urinary tract (female)
A little vaginal discharge is normal, but an infection can produce a larger amount that looks or smells different from the way it usually does. (Normally a woman has only a little discharge, and it does not smell bad.) Discharge from an infection can cause the vagina and the area around it to itch, burn, or feel irritated.
A yeast infection of the vulva (the area around the opening of the vagina and urethra) can cause pain, burning, or both during urination as the urine flows over the irritated skin.
Infections in the vagina by viruses, fungi, or parasites
Any of these can cause the same symptoms as bacterial infections in the urinary tract.
If a man feels a vague, deep sense of discomfort behind his testicles (scrotum), his prostate may be inflamed.
Most urinary tract infections in men involve the prostate gland. A man who has an inflamed prostate (prostatitis) may not be able to urinate even when his bladder is full.
Profile of urinary tract (male)
Another condition related to urinary tract infections is an inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis). The epididymis is a thin, tightly coiled tube inside the body that leads from the testicles to the vas deferens. The sperm travel through the epididymis, which also stores them.
An inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis) causes swelling and tenderness in the side of the scrotum that is inflamed.
Causes of epididymitis at different ages
In young boys, epididymitis is usually caused by bacteria that have traveled through the bloodstream to the epididymis.
In sexually active young men, epididymitis is usually a sexually transmitted disease.
Older men who develop epididymitis have usually had a catheter inserted in the penis for a long time because they have had trouble urinating on their own.