Understanding Your UTI: How to Tell if It’s Upper or Lower UTI?

Getting a UTI is unpleasant, but it’s not uncommon. It is an infection that can happen anywhere along the urinary tract. It could affect either the upper or lower urinary systems, or even both in some circumstances. 

To help you understand more about your UTI and whether it is upper or lower, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know. In this article, we’ll go through the differences between an upper and lower UTI, as well as the causes, treatments, and ways to prevent getting one.

Table of Contents

What Can Cause a UTI?

Numerous factors might lead to an infection of the urinary tract. The leading cause of UTI in critically ill patients is prolonged catheter usage in immobile patients. The incomplete emptying of the bladder is ideal for the growth of bacteria.

The typical flora of the vagina is also impacted by hormonal imbalances, such as the loss of estrogen. This could make menopausal women more susceptible to UTIs. The use of contraceptives like condoms, diaphragms, or spermicides may also make certain people more susceptible to UTIs.

Diabetes and other autoimmune illnesses can lower the body’s general immunity, leaving it more susceptible to bacteria development in the urinary system. Additionally, internal and external obstructions of the urinary tract may hinder the full emptying of the bladder.

Finally, poor bathroom hygiene can raise the risk of infection by pushing bacteria from the anus to the urethra when wiping the perineal area from back to front.

Upper UTI

Pyelonephritis, the medical term for upper UTI, can develop in the kidneys or in the urinary system. Often, this is more concerning than a lower UTI.

Pyelonephritis, an exceedingly deadly kidney infection, causes lower back discomfort, a fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. This condition calls for an urgent trip to the doctor.

As the kidneys are unable to filter out bacteria or toxins that are going through them, upper UTI might worsen into blood poisoning or septicemia if left untreated. Intravenous antibiotics are used to treat this condition. Additionally, pyelonephritis may result in kidney pus and renal abscesses, which are frequently treated with oral antibiotics.

Lower UTI

The lower portion of the urinary tract is made up of the bladder and urethra. Burning during urination, increased frequency of urination, dark, odorous urine, blood in urine, cloudy urine, pelvic discomfort in women, and rectal pain in males are all signs that the urethra or the bladder is infected. Here are the various lower UTI types in further detail:

  • Urethritis – This causes the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, to become inflamed. Stronger urine urges, difficulty urinating, painful urination, and/or frequent urination are typical symptoms of this. In addition to these indications, further manifestations include sex-related pain, discharge from the urethral opening, and blood in the urine or semen for males.
  • Cystitis – This is bladder inflammation. It is more prevalent in women and is typically thought of as a simple infection. However, some people get recurrent cystitis, which may necessitate long-term management from medical professionals. Some signs of cystitis include lower abdominal pain, foul or murky urine, and frequent and painful urinating.
  • Prostatitis – This is prostate gland inflammation. Typically, this condition causes symptoms that resemble cystitis or urethritis. but occasionally it results in pain during ejaculation, which could subsequently lead to erectile dysfunction and loss of sex drive.

Diagnosis and Prevention

Specialists might not be able to distinguish between an upper and lower urinary tract infection accurately if they only look at the symptoms. 

Analysis of the standard urine and blood counts can be used to diagnose UTI. In some circumstances, particularly in chronic sufferers and elderly patients, a catheter is used to drain the bladder to help with diagnosis. Pelvic ultrasound, intravenous pyelogram, and cystoscopy can help to confirm the diagnosis.

Men and women go through the process somewhat differently due to differences in their anatomical structures, but the fundamental steps are the same. The entire procedure might seem intrusive and uncomfortable to some, but if your UTI is caught early and treated, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to endure it.

The risk of UTI can be reduced with a few simple lifestyle changes. Wearing comfortable underwear, drinking lots of water, wiping from front to back after urinating or bowel movements, and washing the perineal area frequently are all ways to lower the risk of UTI.

How Can DrHouse Help You?

At DrHouse, we provide you with a safe and secure platform to seek medical advice and treatment from certified experts. We understand that UTI can be very uncomfortable and painful, and our team of clinicians is ready to help.

We offer on-demand online doctor visits 24/7 so that you can receive quality care from the comfort of your own home. Our clinicians can diagnose, prescribe medication, and give you advice on how to manage your UTI.

With DrHouse, your diagnosis and treatment plan are just a few clicks away! So don’t wait any longer – start a visit now and get the relief you need.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the difference between an upper and a lower UTI can help you understand the seriousness of your UTI and help you get the medical attention you need. With this guide, you’ll have everything you need to manage your symptoms and treat the infection.


Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.



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