Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can impact the bladder, the kidneys, the ureter (the tube that takes urine from kidneys to the bladder, or the urethra – which empties urine outside).

If you’ve had a UTI, you are at a higher risk of getting another one. In fact, about four out of five recurrences are caused by reinfections, several weeks after antibiotic treatment for the first infection—usually through bacteria that’s been reintroduced into the body.

Here’s how to know if you’re especially at risk, to steer clear of infection, to spot UTI warning signs, and to treat yourself if you are fighting one off:

Risk Factors

In addition to what was mentioned above, some of the below conditions also put people at higher risk of UTI, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:

  • Diabetes

  • Problems emptying the bladder completely

  • Having a urinary catheter (for tips on cleaning a catheter, see “Tips to Prevent Infection,” below)

  • Bowel incontinence

  • Enlarged prostate, narrowed urethra, or anything that blocks the flow of urine

  • Kidney stones

  • Long periods of sitting/lying in the same position

  • Surgery or other procedure involving the urinary tract

Tips to Prevent Infection

  • Drink lots of water, until your urine is almost clear in color.

  • Empty the bladder regularly—especially after sexual intercourse. (Also drink a full glass of water to help flush bacteria.)

  • Women should wipe from front to back after bowel movements to limit the spread of bacteria.

  • For post-menopausal women, a vaginal estrogen cream may help prevent recurrent infection.

  • If you have an indwelling (inside-the-body) catheter, you will need to clean your skin carefully and clean the catheter itself twice a day (The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more information here).


Signs of infection can vary greatly, depending on how old you are, whether you’re a woman or a man, and where the infection begins. In general, here are some red flags for a UTI:

  • Cloudy or bloody urine, which may have a strong smell

  • Feelings of pain or burning during urination

  • Back pressure or pain

  • Strong feeling of needing to urinate, even when bladder is empty

  • Low fever

If you are at all concerned about your symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Complications of recurrent or untreated UTIs can be a kidney infection, scarring, or even sepsis.