A UTI is caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract, leading to an infection in the bladder, urethra, ureters (urine tubes) or kidneys. If untreated, UTIs can lead to kidney infection, so it’s important to visit your doctor for early management.
If you have a UTI, you may:
- have pain or a burning feeling when urinating
- need to urinate small amounts often, or with urgency
- have blood in the urine
- feel uncomfortable in your lower abdomen
Check your symptoms with healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
Visit your doctor if you have UTI symptoms. They may perform a physical examination and a sample of urine will be collected for testing.
The Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases recommend that if your urine tests results show bacteria in your urine but you don't have any symptoms of a UTI, it is unlikely you will need antibiotics. For more information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
Besides prescription antibiotic treatment, if you have repeated UTIs there are some self-help measures that may help prevent further infections:
- drink more fluids to help flush out bacteria
- urinate immediately after intercourse
- gently wipe from front to back after urinating
- wear cotton underwear and loose fitting pants
- eat natural yoghurt to restore normal vaginal environment
- find an alternative method of birth control if you use spermicides
There is conflicting evidence for drinking cranberry juice to prevent UTIs. If you want to try cranberry products ask your doctor for advice.
Possible complications of a UTI
Complications of UTIs aren’t common, but they can be serious and require immediate treatment by a doctor. They usually affect people diagnosed with diabetes, a weakened immune system, men with recurrent UTIs, or women who are pregnant.
If a UTI is left untreated, bacteria may travel to the kidneys causing kidney infection, damage and even kidney failure. Blood poisoning can happen and occurs when the infection spreads from the kidneys to the blood-stream.
If the infection moves to the kidneys, there may be high fever, back pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor.
When to seek medical help
If you have any symptoms associated with a UTI or a pre-existing health condition, don’t delay visiting your doctor for treatment.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: December 2017