Recent Blog Articles
Is blood sugar monitoring without diabetes worthwhile?
Large review study finds low risk of erectile dysfunction after prostate biopsy
Does exercise help protect against severe COVID-19?
A new Alzheimer’s drug has been approved. But should you take it?
Need physical therapy? 3 key questions your PT will ask
COVID-19 vaccines: Safe and effective for American Indian and Alaskan Native communities
Should we track all breakthrough cases of COVID-19?
Period equity: What is it, why does it matter?
Common questions about medical cannabis
Mouth-watering summer fruits and vegetables to fill your plate
Urinary Tract Infection in Women
What Is It?
A urinary tract infection is an infection involving the organs that produce urine and carry it out of the body. These structures include the kidneys, ureters (long, slender tubes connecting the kidneys with the bladder), bladder and urethra. Doctors often divide urinary tract infections into two types, lower tract infections and upper tract infections:
- Lower tract infections — Infection of the bladder is called cystitis (bladder infection). Bacteria normally found in the intestine are the main cause of lower urinary tract infections. These bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra and bladder, where they grow, invade the tissue and cause infection.
- Upper tract infections — These involve the ureters and kidneys. These infections are called pyelonephritis or kidney infections. Upper urinary tract infections usually occur because bacteria travel up from the bladder into the kidney. Sometimes, they occur when bacteria travel from other areas of the body through the bloodstream and settle in the kidney.
Women are affected much more often than men because women have short urethras that allow relatively easy passage of bacteria into the bladder. Sexual intercourse can cause bacteria to spread upward into the bladder. Also, the use of contraceptive diaphragms and spermicides may change the normal bacterial environment around the urethra and make infection more likely.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.