Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when part of your urinary system (which includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra) becomes infected. Your exact symptoms will vary depending on which area is affected and the severity of the infection. (Learn More — Urinary Tract Infections)
A UTI of the kidneys (acute pyelonephritis) manifests in pain, fever, vomiting, and shaking. A UTI of the bladder (cystitis) causes a host of urinary problems and abdominal discomfort. A UTI of the urethra (urethritis) can cause pus or other discharge from your urethra and burning while urinating.
The severity of these symptoms will vary. Even if you do not experience all of them, you need to see a doctor. (Learn More — Signs of a UTI)
Do not try to diagnose a UTI at home. If you experience any symptoms, see a doctor to confirm. There are no home remedies that will properly treat a UTI. You will need to see a doctor to get a prescription for antibiotics. (Learn More — Can You Diagnose at Home?)
When you think you have a UTI, especially if you are still waiting to get diagnosed by a doctor, avoid using OTC pain relievers that can thin your blood. Not all pain relievers do this, but aspirin does. (Learn More — Avoid Certain Medications)
A UTI can potentially cause permanent damage if left untreated. See a doctor promptly. (Learn More — Professional Help Required)
Urinary Tract Infections
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is when any part of your urinary system becomes infected. Your urinary system includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Your bladder and urethra are most likely to be infected with a UTI.
Signs you have a UTI will vary depending on where the infection is located. A kidney infection is generally the most dangerous. If you believe you might have a UTI, see a doctor to receive treatment as soon as possible.
Signs of a UTI
Depending on where your UTI is located, you will experience different symptoms.
- Kidneys (acute pyelonephritis)
- Pain in the upper back and flanks
- Shakes or chills
- Bladder (cystitis)
- Blood in urine
- Painful urination
- Frequent urination
- Discomfort in the lower abdomen or pelvic pressure
- Urethra (urethritis)
- Pus or other discharge
- Burning while urinating
UTIs are not rare. Some experts claim as many as one in two women will have at least one urinary tract infection in their lifetime. This is in large part due to the fact that in a woman, the urethra is closer to the anus. Bacteria can therefore accidentally get into the urethra more easily, potentially causing infection.
Even if your symptoms do not seem severe, see a doctor as soon as you notice them. It is better to get treated quickly and not risk your condition worsening.
Can You Diagnose at Home?
While it may be possible to determine you have a UTI based solely on your symptoms, a person cannot definitively test for a UTI at home, even with the help of an online doctor. In order to be properly diagnosed (and therefore be prescribed the necessary medication), you will need to go to a properly equipped facility.
Most people will only need to provide a urine sample and answer a few questions. The sample will then be sent to a lab and checked for bacteria, white blood cells, and red blood cells.
Your doctor may ask some questions about your urinary and sexual health. These are to help narrow down the potential source of the issue since some symptoms can be caused by other conditions.
If you have frequent UTIs, your doctor may use ultrasound, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to check the shape of your urinary tract for abnormalities.
In some cases, your doctor may use a long, thin tube with a lens to check inside your urethra and bladder. This can be uncomfortable, although it’s not usually painful. This is generally not done unless you have frequent UTIs.
Avoid Certain Medications
If you suspect you have a UTI, avoid aspirin (Durlaza, Aspir-Low, Aspir-81) as well as any other common painkillers that can thin your blood. Taking such medications can elevate the level of blood in your urine.
There are several pain medications that are generally safe to use, such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you are not sure whether a medication is safe, ask your doctor before taking it.
As long as they are used appropriately, OTC pain relievers can play a role in alleviating UTI symptoms, as they reduce pain and fever. Never use them in excess of their daily recommended dose, especially if you haven’t spoken to a doctor yet and confirmed what is causing your symptoms.
Professional Help Required
Some people are under the impression that UTIs can be diagnosed and cured at home. This is false.
UTIs do sometimes go away on their own, but this is rare. UTIs can cause a host of complications, particularly if they reach your kidneys and cause permanent damage.
Many online sources claim cranberry juice can help with UTIs, but the evidence is mixed. A 2012 review of 24 studies on the subject found that cranberry juice did not significantly reduce the instance of UTIs.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): Symptoms & Causes. (January 30, 2019). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): Diagnosis & Treatment. (January 30, 2019). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). (October 10, 2017). WebMD.
Can Home Remedies Help With a Kidney Infection? (July 29, 2019). Medical News Today.