About Urinary Tract Infections

What is a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection is an infection involving the urinary system, made up of your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.

These are the structures that urine passes through before being eliminated from the body. Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria developing in your urinary tract. The infection may cause pelvic pain, increased urge to urinate or pain while urinating. UTIs that are limited to the bladder can be painful and an inconvenience but are very common and typically go away within a couple of days of proper treatment in otherwise healthy individuals. A UTI can become more serious if it goes untreated and spreads to the kidneys. UTIs can also recur and become a repeat problem with at least 30% of women developing a second UTI within six months of their first one.*

If you think you might have a Urinary Tract Infection, you’re not alone.

UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections in the United States. Some infections can have similar symptoms. It’s important to understand the various types of infections and their symptoms so you can ensure you are getting the right treatment. The chart below that outlines symptoms of common infections including UTIs, Yeast Infections, Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and Trichomoniasis.

Infection Overview
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Yeast Infection Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Trichomoniasis


  • Persistent urge to urinate
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Urine that appears cloudy
  • Strong smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain
  • Severe vaginal itching
  • Irritated skin around the vagina
  • Pain while urinating or during sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal discharge that is white, thick, clumpy & odorless
  • Unusual odor, which is usually worse after sex
  • Excessive grayish white vaginal discharge
  • Burning when urinating
  • Itching around the vagina
  • Greenish, yellow vaginal discharge with strong odor
  • Vaginal itching or irritation
  • Painful intercourse
  • Discomfort during urination
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Pain in lower abdomen


When bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. Although the urinary system is designed to keep bacteria out, these defenses sometimes fail. When the normal bacteria that keep yeast under control are out of balance & too many yeast cells grow. Can be caused by certain antibiotics, having high estrogen levels, having diabetes or an impaired immune system. Imbalance between the “good and bad” bacteria that normally reside in the vagina. It is not considered an STD – it can be contracted by women who are not sexually active. Caused by tiny parasites called protozoa – it is most commonly sexually contracted.


The only cure is a prescription from your doctor, but OTC products such as Cystex® Urinary Pain Relief Tablets can help relieve the pain associated with a UTI and keep the infection in check while waiting for your doctor’s appointment. OTC creams and suppositories as well as oral prescriptions are available for treatment.
Some cases of BV may resolve themselves on their own, but it is best to get an oral prescription for immediate relief.
An oral prescription is the only treatment for Trichomoniasis.

The only way to treat a urinary tract infection is through a doctor-prescribed antibiotic. However, there are steps you can take to help maintain good urinary health now and in the future. For more information, visit our How Do I Prevent UTIs page.

*American Family Physician