In females, the urethra is much shorter and closer to the anus than in males. This is the reason why, in general, women are more prone to UTIs than men. The article on vulvovaginal health has some health tips for preventing UTIs.
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include dysuria (pain on passing urine), frequency (of passing urine) and hematuria (blood in the urine). Other helpful signs include cloudy or smelly urine. A urine dipstick test is often useful in the diagnosis.
While empirical treatment with antibiotics will cure most urinary tract infections, sometimes a urine culture may be necessary to identify the causative organism and its sensitivity to antibiotics in order to prescribe the correct antibiotic.
Patients with recurrent UTIs may need further investigation. This may include ultrasound scans of the kidneys and bladder or intravenous urography (X-rays of the urological system following intravenous injection of iodinated contrast material).
NIH articles on Urinary Tract Infections in Adults (http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/utiadult/) and in Children (http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/utichildren/).
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