UTI Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

A frequent, urgent need to pee is just one sign of this common bacterial infection.

At first, it can be easy to dismiss UTI symptoms as something else. That constant urge to pee might be from drinking a lot of liquid. But before long, peeing becomes a fiery nightmare. Could that burning sensation be a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) happens when bacteria enter the urethra (where urine leaves the body). The bacteria then infect the urinary tract, usually the bladder, which can cause a burning sensation when you pee, among other symptoms.

People who have vaginas are more likely to develop UTIs due to having much shorter urethras.

Let's look at the most common UTI symptoms and what causes them.

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How Long Do UTI Symptoms Last?

How long your symptoms last depends on how quickly you receive treatment. Most UTIs are treated with a course of antibiotics. You may be prescribed an antibiotic that will be taken for either three, seven, or 14 days, depending on the severity of the infection and whether you have a vagina or a penis.

Your symptoms should improve after finishing the antibiotic—but even with proper treatment, the symptoms can last several days. Some people may not find relief with antibiotic treatment. If your symptoms are ongoing even after you've finished your medication, see a healthcare provider.

If you experience frequent UTIs, you may have chronic UTIs and require a stronger or different antibiotic.

Common UTI Symptoms

UTI symptoms can be a bit different depending on where the infection is. The most common type of UTI is a bladder infection. If you have symptoms, see a healthcare provider right away. Here are the most common symptoms of bladder infections.

Persistent and Urgent Need To Pee

Feeling like you've got to pee all the time—even right after you use the bathroom—is a classic UTI symptom. You might also feel like you can't wait another moment to get back on the toilet—and when you try to go, not much comes out. You can blame bacteria for this and just about all other UTI symptoms.

Bacteria can invade the inside wall of the bladder and cause inflammation and irritation. This irritation can make you feel like you need to pee all the time, even though your bladder doesn't have a lot of urine.

Burning Sensation When You Pee

Does it feel like you're shooting fire out of your urethra? That burning during urination is a telltale UTI symptom. And if you're wondering where it comes from, you can once again blame bacteria for causing inflammation.

The medical term for pain or burning during urination is called dysuria. UTIs affecting the lower urinary tract (bladder infections) and the upper urinary tract (kidney infections) can cause dysuria. However, other conditions can cause dysuria as well.

Cloudy Urine

Pee that appears cloudy, milky, or smells downright foul can be another sign of infection. However, if this is your only symptom, don't jump straight to the conclusion that you have a UTI. UTIs can make your urine cloudy for a couple of reasons.

One explanation is that the bacteria causing the infection releases proteins and enzymes into your urine. Another possibility is that you see the white blood cells your body sent to fight the infection mixing with your urine, hence that milky, almost opaque appearance.

Foul-smelling Urine

The foul odor in your urine can also be blamed on the bacteria. If you're healthy and drink lots of fluids, your urine shouldn't have a strong smell. If you get a UTI, the bacteria causing it may make your urine smell extra unpleasant.

Pinkish or Reddish Urine

Your pee can start to look pink or red when you've got a UTI. That pinkish or reddish color is an indication of blood in your urine. Once again, the bacteria are to blame for this symptom. The resulting inflammation allows red blood cells to escape into your urine.

Bloody urine isn't a UTI symptom everyone gets, but it tends to be more common in younger women. If it happens to you, see a healthcare provider right away.

Blood in your urine is not normal, but it's not usually serious, either. While it can result from a UTI, there can also be other causes. That's why a healthcare provider should check out any pinkish or reddish tint to your urine.

Pressure or Pain in Your Pelvis

When bacteria invade your bladder, your body fights to evict unwanted guests. But that turns your bladder into a battleground and causes another common UTI symptom: pressure or pain in your pelvis or abdomen.

The inflammation that results from the infection can cause pain and pressure in your pelvis. The pain and pressure should subside once the infection starts clearing up and your immune system relaxes. In the meantime, a heating pad or hot water bottle can help you feel a bit better.

Symptoms of a Kidney Infection

You might notice new UTI symptoms if the infection has spread to your kidneys (pyelonephritis). A kidney infection is nothing to mess around with. It could cause permanent organ damage or sepsis, which can be deadly. If you notice symptoms of an upper urinary tract infection, seek care immediately.

In addition to the UTI symptoms mentioned above, symptoms of a UTI that has moved to your kidneys include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Pain on your side, back, or groin
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Diagnosing a UTI

It's worth noting that UTI symptoms can only tell you if you might have an infection. The only way to know is to get it checked out by a healthcare provider. They can send your urine sample to a lab to check for bacteria and help you get the proper treatment to knock out the infection before it worsens.

A Quick Review

Urinary tract infections are common. Bladder infections are the most common type, but kidney infections can also occur. The main symptoms are an urgent need to pee and burning with urination. However, you may also notice lower back and abdominal pain, fever, and changes in your urine color or odor.

Seek medical care right away if you notice signs of a UTI. Kidney infections can be serious and require immediate treatment. A healthcare provider will likely put you on a course of antibiotics.

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