15 Silent Signs You Have a UTI

The symptoms of a urinary tract infection can range from subtle to very obvious.

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urinary tract infection symptoms

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection

There’s nothing pleasant about suffering from a urinary tract infection — just ask anyone who’s experienced one. Unfortunately they’re extremely common among women, mainly due to a woman’s anatomy. “In women, it’s common to have bladder infections because their urethra tends to be very short,” explains Dr. Erika Feuerstein, a family physician and educational director at the Bay Centre for Birth Control at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “And it’s close to the anal opening.” Meaning it’s easy for bacteria like E. coli to transfer back up into the bladder. Think you might have one? Some of the signs can be subtle. Read on to find out what they are.

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washroom sign

You constantly feel like you have to urinate

Running to the bathroom more than usual? Assuming it’s not that you’re just drinking more liquids, the constant need to urinate could be a symptom of a urinary tract infection. Everyone’s body is different, including how much urine you pass daily, explains Dr. Feuerstein, so it’s important to consider what’s more frequent than normal for you.

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There’s a burning sensation when you urinate

“Burning urination is never OK,” advises Dr. Feuerstein. When you have a UTI and acidic urine passes through an inflamed urethra it can cause a burning sensation. However, burning urination doesn’t always indicate a UTI. It could also be due to a sexually transmitted infection (such as gonorrhea and chlamydia) or another vaginal irritation, so have it checked out to fully determine the cause.

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toilet flushing

Your urine looks cloudy

Normal urine should be clear and have a light yellow colour. If that’s not the case you may want to keep a close eye. “Cloudy urine can be caused by a variety of conditions including vaginal discharge, dehydration and sexually transmitted diseases,” explains Dr. Feuerstein. It’s also a common symptom of a urinary tract infection.

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Your urine has a strong-smelling odour

Urine doesn’t exactly have a pleasant smell to begin with and can change when eating certain foods (think asparagus) or taking some medications. When you have a UTI that smell becomes very strong and unpleasant, due to bacteria in the urine. A definite sign something’s not right.

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You feel like you aren’t able to fully empty your bladder

You shouldn’t feel like you need to urinate after you’ve emptied your bladder. If you’re feeling that after you pee or there’s a dribble of urine after you think you’ve finished, it’s an indication you might be suffering from a UTI.

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There’s blood in your urine

Pink, red or cola-coloured urine can seem scary, but it’s usually not a sign of anything life-threatening. It’s often present when you are suffering from a UTI, but there are other reasons it can happen too, ranging from something as simple as having just eaten beets (called beeturia) to kidney stones and certain cancers. Bottom line, it should be checked out.

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You have sudden urges to urinate

One of the hallmark signs of a UTI, the sudden urge to pee is caused from involuntary contractions of the bladder muscle (also known as urge incontinence). You might feel fine one minute and the next you can’t hold your bladder.

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It’s painful to urinate

A common symptom of a urinary tract infection, it can be painful every time you pass urine. “People sometimes get a pulling or tugging feeling at the end of a void,” describes Dr. Feuerstein. Like burning urination, it can also be a sign of an STI or other type of infection.

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low back pain

You have lower back pain

Lower back pain can accompany bladder infections. It can also be a sign of a kidney infection, which is when a UTI spreads to the kidneys. This symptom isn’t usually experienced in isolation, so pay attention if you’re also feeling unwell or have other signs of a UTI.

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You feel pain or pressure in your lower abdomen

Another area that can be sensitive when you are suffering with a UTI is your pelvic area or lower abdomen. You may also feel cramping, dull or sharp pains, or pressure around the bladder.

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tired woman

You feel tired or unwell

When your body is trying to fight off an infection it’s quite normal to not feel like your usual self. You may be more tired than usual, achy or weak. If you are experiencing other UTI symptoms as well, chances are you might have one.

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Your temperature is high

It’s not normal to have a high temperature when you’re suffering from a bladder infection. But if you notice your temperature is over 38°C (100.4°F) it can indicate the infection has moved to the kidneys or prostate.

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nausea and vomiting

You have nausea or vomiting

“You can have nausea or vomiting from severe pain,” says Dr. Feuerstein, although it’s not a common symptom of a urinary tract infection. It can be a sign you have an upper urinary tract infection that’s moved up into your kidneys and should be checked out.

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You’re experiencing shaking and chills

Another symptom that can accompany an upper urinary tract infection, are shaking and chills. This occurs as a response to your body fighting off a bacterial or viral infection, and could be an indication you have a UTI that has spread.

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side pain

You have upper back and side pain

A classic sign of an upper urinary tract infection, if you experience upper back or side pain it’s quite possible your UTI has moved to your kidneys. “If you end up with a kidney infection you’ll have high back pain,” explains Dr. Feuerstein. “It’s called the costovertebral angle, which is at the base of the ribs.”