Harvard Health Letter

Silent urinary infections, serious consequences

Why it's vital to know the causes and symptoms of urinary tract infections and how to treat and prevent them.

Unrecognized and untreated urinary tract infections (UTIs) can quickly turn into more serious conditions. Among young and middle-aged adults, UTIs are more likely to strike women than men. But UTIs also occur often in older men. In both older men and women, the symptoms of a UTI may not be so obvious as they are in young women.

UTI causes

UTIs commonly occur when bacteria from the rectum (such as Escherichia coli) infect the skin around the opening of the urethra (the tube leading to the bladder) and then ascend to the bladder. Because a woman's urethra is much shorter than a man's, it is easier for bacteria to get up into the bladder and cause a UTI.

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