If you start experiencing these, you should definitely get a urine test.

By Maggie O'Neill
November 10, 2020
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Pain while urinating, a burning sensation, feeling like you can't be too far away from a toilet—those are all common symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), the second most common type of infection in the human body, according to the US National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus resource.

But here's the thing: your urinary tract is comprised of a few different body parts—your two kidneys, urethra, two ureters, and bladder—and so a UTI can mean an infection of any of those parts. And the most common type of UTI, per MedlinePlus, is a bladder infection, also known as cystitis. The terms "UTI" and "bladder infection" are often used interchangeably, Bilal Chughtai, MD, a urologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, tells Health.

Bladder infections, or UTIs, don't only affect people with vaginas, though they do have higher rates of infection. That's because, in those with biologically female genitalia, the urethra (the tube through which urine is removed from the body) is closer to the rectum, opening up more opportunities for bacteria to enter the urinary tract, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Once that bacteria enters the bladder, the following symptoms can show up, per the CDC and MedlinePlus:

  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder
  • Bloody urine
  • Pressure or cramping in the groin, lower abdomen, or sides
  • Fever, tiredness, or shakiness
  • Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy

Since UTIs can cause you to have to pee very frequently, they might cause you to have to go more often than usual during the night, which can lead to disruptive sleep, Sandip Vasavada, MD, a urologist at Cleveland Clinic, tells Health.

The good news is that you don’t have to make an appointment with a specialist if you suspect you’re suffering from a UTI: “Most infections are dealt with by the primary care doctor,” Dr. Chughtai says. And the diagnostic process is simple enough: After a urine test, if your primary care doctor confirms you do have a UTI, you’ll likely be prescribed a round of antibiotics that should take care of the infection. Patients are usually told they’ll feel better somewhere around two to three days after diagnosis, Dr. Chughtai says.

Also worth noting: there are multiple things you can do to lower your chance of getting a bladder infection in the first place. Those include urinating after engaging in sexual activity, staying hydrated, peeing regularly, and wiping from front to back, according to the CDC. The agency also recommends swapping baths for showers and staying away from using any powders or sprays on your genitals to further reduce your risk of having a UTI.

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