What is a urinary tract infection?


A urinary tract infection (UTI) is when bacteria enter your urinary system and multiply. Many UTIs are in your bladder; these infections can be painful and quite annoying. Serious consequences can occur if the infection spreads to your kidneys.


Women are most at risk of developing a UTI. Approximately 40 percent of women and 12 percent of men will experience at least one symptomatic urinary tract infection during their lifetime. (1)


The urinary system is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. This system plays an important role in removing wastes from your body. The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs that lie in the middle of the back, just below the rib cage. One of their functions is to filter waste from your blood. Tubes called ureters carry these wastes or urine from your kidneys to your bladder, where it is stored until it exits the body through the urethra. All of these components can become infected, but most infections involve the lower tract — the urethra and the bladder.


Antibiotics are the typical treatment for urinary tract infections.


How can I help reduce my risk of acquiring a urinary tract infection?


  • Drink plenty of fluids, water is best.
  • Cranberry juice and taking of vitamin C increase the acid in your urine and help inhibit bacteria from growing.
  • Go to the bathroom when you have the urge; don’t wait.
  • After using the toilet, wipe front to back.
  • Cleanse genital area daily and after having sex.
  • Go to the bathroom before and after having sex.
  • Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes so air can keep the area dry.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.


How can I help reduce my risk of acquiring a urinary tract infection if I have a urinary catheter in place?


Many times a urinary catheter is needed to relieve a urinary tract obstruction; to relieve urine retention following a major accident or a surgical procedure; to permit urinary drainage in patients with neurogenic bladder dysfunction and to obtain accurate measurements of urinary output in critically ill patients.


Once you are able to take fluids, create urine, and regain bladder control your practitioner should consider removal of the catheter and have you urinate on your own. There are a few steps that you can take while you have a catheter in place to help decrease the risk of getting an infection.


  • Drink plenty of fluids, water is best. Follow your clinician’s recommendations.
  • Make sure that clinicians wash their hands before and after or wear gloves when they are handling your catheter or any part of the urine drainage system.
  • Make sure that your catheter is secured properly. This prevents the catheter from moving in and out of the bladder. Let your clinician know if it is not secured.
  • Maintain a closed sterile drainage system.
  • Maintain unobstructed urine flow. The collection tubing should not be kinked. Urinary catheters drain urine from the bladder into a urine collection bag that is usually located alongside your bed and should be located lower than your bladder (urine continues to flow forward and not back into your bladder).






(1) American Urological Association


National Kidney and Urological Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) website


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Maki DG. Tambyah PA. Engineering out the risk of infection with urinary catheters. Emerging Infectious Diseases. Vol. 7, No. 2, March–April 2001.


Wong ES. Hooton TM. Guideline for Prevention of Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infections.


American Urological Association. UrologicalHealth.org


Related Links:


The Safe Care Campaign

The Safe Care Campaign's goal is to instigate a crucial, culture-change within the American healthcare environment in regard to comprehensive infection prevention and hand hygiene.


National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC)


Click here for the NKUDIC webpage on "Urinary Tract Infections, What You Need to Know."



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


Guideline for Prevention of Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infections


Other Resources: