Recognizing and Addressing Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms

A woman lays on her side and clutches her lower abdomen in pain.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that can affect both men and women, but they are most prevalent in women.

  • Typical UTI symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating, frequent urination, and lower abdominal pain, but symptoms can vary among different demographics.

  • If left untreated, a UTI can lead to further infection. It’s extremely important to seek professional medical attention if you suspect you have a UTI.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that are the outcome of bacteria – usually Escherichia coli (E. coli) — entering the urethra. UTIs can infect any part of the urinary tract.

Learn more about common UTI causes here.

The urinary tract includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra, and in men, the prostate. The most common and least severe infection of the urinary tract is a bladder infection, or cystitis, while a more severe UTI is an infection of the kidneys, or pyelonephritis.

According to the American Urological Foundation, approximately 10 in every 25 women and 3 in every 25 men will develop symptoms of a UTI at least once in their lifetime.

While UTI symptoms can present differently in men, women, children and senior patients, there are many symptoms that are consistent across the board.

What are the Most Common UTI Symptoms?

General UTI symptoms (regardless of demographics, as symptoms vary among groups) can typically be treated with a course of antibiotics prescribed by your healthcare provider. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Frequent urination

  • General discomfort in the abdomen and lower back

  • Burning sensation when urinating

  • Fatigue and shakiness

  • Low grade fever

Key Point: What are the Symptoms of Pyelonephritis, a UTI in the Kidneys?

Though more serious than an infection in the bladder, kidney infections do not typically cause serious harm if treated promptly. That being said, it is essential to seek medical attention if you suspect you have an infection as it can lead to severe health complications.

Look out for the following complicated UTI symptoms as signs of pyelonephritis:

  • High fever
  • Shivering or chills
  • Extreme weakness and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms of a kidney infection usually develop within a few hours, and tend to present alongside typical bladder UTI symptoms.

UTI symptoms in women

Women are almost three times more likely to contract a UTI than men. Additionally, female UTI symptoms can vary from those in men because of the difference in urinary tract length.

Specific UTI symptoms in women include:

  • Pressure in the pelvis, similar to period-related pain

  • Foul-smelling or cloudy urine

  • Spotting/blood in urine

  • Lower back pain

UTI symptoms in men

Though men are much less likely to contract an infection, male UTI symptoms can be incredibly painful and require immediate medical attention. Contact your licensed healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Cloudy or bloody urine

  • Lower back pain

  • Testicular pain

  • Rectal pain

  • Discharge from the penis

A child plays with her food and refuses to eat it.

UTI symptoms in kids

Signs of UTIs in toddlers and young children can be less obvious, as many of the following symptoms have several other possible causes.

If your child is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, in addition to the ones outlined above, it is important to seek medical attention.

  • Bedwetting

  • Unexplained fever

  • Irritability

  • Poor appetite

  • Stomach pain

  • Foul-smelling urine

UTI symptoms in older people

Seniors are often more vulnerable to developing a UTI due to their predisposition to certain health conditions, including diabetes, kidney stones, and catheter use.

Typical UTI symptoms are less common in older people, so it is important to look out for the following symptoms to diagnose UTIs in seniors. Contact a licensed medical professional if you are of advanced age (or care for someone who is) and are experiencing:

  • New or worsening urinary incontinence

  • Confusion and disorientation

  • Changes in behavior

Vigilance is crucial in recognizing UTI symptoms in older adults in order to prevent further complications.

UTI Symptoms During Pregnancy

Approximately 8% of all pregnant women report developing a UTI while pregnant. It is very important to see a medical professional as soon as possible if you present any UTI symptoms during pregnancy, as any bacterial infection can pose risks to the mother and fetus.

In addition to the common UTI symptoms, these may include:

  • Urinary incontinence

  • The need to urinate more often than usual

During pregnancy, women are more prone to developing asymptomatic UTIs. This means that despite the significant amount of bacteria in the urine causing the infection, there may be no physical symptoms.

Can UTIs lead to pregnancy complications?

According to a study published in the American Journal of Perinatology, developing a UTI while pregnant can greatly increase the chances of developing high blood pressure and delivering prematurely.

If you notice any symptoms of a UTI while pregnant, make an appointment to see a medical professional immediately.

A pregnant woman holds her belly and makes a pained face.

When Should I See a Doctor About UTI Symptoms?

If left untreated for a long period of time, a UTI can spread to the bloodstream and lead to sepsis, a life-threatening infection. Therefore, it is incredibly important to seek professional medical attention if you suspect you have a UTI.

A doctor will typically order a urine sample collection for you, which will then be tested for bacteria. Your doctor may also order blood tests to ensure your kidneys are functioning as they should.

While there are at-home remedies that are helpful in relieving symptoms, the only way to treat the infection itself is with antibiotics.

Where Can I Learn More About UTIs?

You don’t have to visit a doctor’s office to get a prescription for UTI treatment. Through LifeMD, you can consult with an online nurse practitioner or doctor who can provide prescriptions for the medication you need.

To discuss UTI symptoms and any other related concerns, make an appointment with a healthcare professional today — from the comfort of your home or anywhere you are.

Dina Whiteaker, APRN

Dina earned her MSN from the University of Nebraska Medical Center before becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner. She has 10ᐩ years of telemedicine experience. Dina is board certified and is a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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