Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary tract infection (UTI) can occur in many patient populations: from healthy patients with no medical conditions to patients with multiple medical problems. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and diabetes are associated with higher rates of all types of infection, including UTI. Kidney stones can also predispose patients to UTI. Patients with polycystic kidney disease can also get cyst infections. UTIs can affect adults as well as children.

At Mount Sinai, kidney disease patients with UTI have the benefit of easy access to experts in the medical center's full range of services, including primary care, urology, infectious diseases, nephrology, and obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN). The result is a coordinated and multidisciplinary approach that can successfully treat even the most challenging UTI.

From primary care for a simple infection to advanced care for recurring and treatment-resistant forms of the condition, our nephrologists (kidney specialists), urologists (urinary tract specialists), and other experts are committed to the effective treatment and prevention of this common illness.

What is Urinary Tract Infection?

The second most common type of infection in the body, a UTI develops when microorganisms – usually bacteria – invade the urinary system and multiply, causing an infection that usually begins in the urethra (the tube carrying urine from the bladder out of the body). If left untreated, the bacteria can move to the bladder, causing a bladder infection, and even ascend the ureters (the tubes connecting the bladder to each kidney), which could lead to kidney infection, also called pyelonephritis. Recurring kidney infections or kidney infections that continue at length can cause permanent kidney damage. In extreme cases, an untreated UTI could ultimately result in urosepsis, a potentially fatal condition in which bacteria or their toxins enter the blood stream.

In addition to CKD and diabetes, other conditions can increase the risk for UTI. These include vesicoureteral reflux in children (a condition in which urine moves up the ureters) and urinary incontinence in the elderly. Some medications that suppress the immune system can also predispose a patient to infections such as UTI.

UTI signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Frequent and urgent need to urinate
  • Passing small amounts of urine
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Cloudy, foul-smelling urine
  • Fever
  • Having blood in the urine
  • Pain in the bladder area

Treating Simple and Serious UTI

UTI is usually basic conditions that are easy to treat. Diagnosis typically consists of a urinary analysis (which tests for white blood cells, bacteria, blood, and other abnormal elements) and a urine culture (which identifies the type of bacteria present). Additional tests sometimes used to rule out other causes of UTI include abdominal computerized tomography (CT) scan, kidney and bladder ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

UTI can sometimes clear up on their own, especially if the patient drinks plenty of fluids. However, those with a weakened immune system (such as patients with diabetes or kidney transplant recipients) and pregnant women should always seek treatment immediately. An uncomplicated UTI could be treated with a three-day course of antibiotics; more complex cases may require seven to ten days of treatment.

Mount Sinai's UTI Services

If a patient with kidney disease is experiencing recurrent UTI, a Mount Sinai nephrologist can provide a referral to a urologist, who will determine if there is an anatomical issue behind the condition. Other departments and practices that regularly deal with UTI include Primary Care, OB/GYN, and Geriatrics.