With how common UTIs are in women, most women are unlucky enough to experience at least one throughout their life. They’re unpleasant and have painful symptoms, which serve as the biggest clue that you have a UTI.
However, what about the cases where you have a UTI but aren’t aware that you do? Let’s discuss what a silent UTI is and what it can mean for you.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Silent UTI?
- UTI Vs. Silent UTI – How Do the Two Differ?
- What Are the Symptoms of a Silent UTI?
- How To Know If You Have a Silent UTI?
- When To See a Doctor?
- How Can DrHouse Help You?
What Is a Silent UTI?
One of the problems with UTIs is that everyone knows their symptoms, which makes it so that many of us assume that if you have a UTI, it will burn when you urinate. No burning, no UTI, right? Well, not necessarily.
A silent UTI is a UTI that does not display these symptoms characteristic of a UTI, which means that it can often go undetected. You may notice that something is off, but you don’t attribute it to a UTI because you don’t have the classic symptoms. Unfortunately, this also means that you may put off UTI treatment, which can cause complications down the line.
UTI Vs. Silent UTI – How Do the Two Differ?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) most often occurs when bacteria enter the urethra and travel through the urinary tract to the bladder, where it then grows and reproduces, causing the symptoms characteristic of a UTI.
The symptoms of a UTI include:
- pain or burning when urinating
- discomfort or mild pain in the pelvic area
- frequent urges to urinate
This same infection occurs with a silent UTI; the only difference is that it does not cause painful urination, the most obvious UTI symptom, making it harder to detect.
One of the greatest hazards of a silent UTI is that it is more likely for it to be left untreated as you may not connect the symptoms to a UTI. As an infection resulting from bacteria, antibiotics are the only way to treat a UTI. However, in cases of silent UTIs, it is common for someone infected to refrain from going to the doctor, which also means that they do not begin treatment.
If antibiotic treatment is not begun, there is then a risk of the infection spreading to the kidneys and becoming a kidney infection, which is a more complicated infection.
What Are the Symptoms of a Silent UTI?
The symptoms of a silent UTI can include the following:
- muscle aches
- back pain
- unexplained pressure or pain in the pelvic area
Unfortunately, it can often be difficult to attribute these symptoms only to a silent UTI, as many of them can result from various other medical concerns.
Of all these symptoms, unusual fatigue is the most common association with a silent UTI. It is normal to feel tired after staying up late or after a busy day, but feeling exhausted for no discernable reason is cause to call your doctor and discuss what’s going on, especially if it lasts for a few days.
Confusion is another key symptom of a silent UTI, but this can be challenging to detect since confusion is also a common symptom of old age, and older women are also more likely to experience silent UTIs. However, if the confusion is sudden and worse than usual, it may signify that something more is going on than general aging.
How To Know If You Have a Silent UTI?
Despite the name of silent UTI, it still has some symptoms, albeit ones that you may not associate with a UTI since they are not the classic symptoms you expect. Because of this, you might not know if your symptoms are from a silent UTI until you have a urine test completed by a doctor, which will be able to detect any bacteria in the urinary tract.
In order to receive the urine test, it is crucial to inform your doctor whenever something seems wrong. For example, if you feel more tired than usual and you cannot explain it away as from an unusually late night.
UTIs are never entirely silent; it is just a matter of knowing what to look for.
When To See a Doctor?
For those with a UTI, it’s pretty common to seek medical attention once you notice burning when you pee, but for those with a silent UTI, this is not a good sign to look for. Instead, it is recommended to visit a doctor whenever something doesn’t feel right. These unusual symptoms may be from a silent UTI or from another cause, but whatever the reason, if you feel off, it’s better to check in with a doctor than to ignore it.
It is especially important for older adults who feel something is off to see a doctor as soon as they notice any unusual symptoms. This population is more prone to silent UTIs because the symptoms of a UTI are often less noticeable for them, which means they have to rely on other means to recognize this potentially dangerous infection.
How Can DrHouse Help You?
If you’re feeling off or have unexplainable symptoms, DrHouse can connect you with an online doctor in just 15 minutes. Without having to leave your house, you can discuss your symptoms with a board-certified professional to get to the bottom of your symptoms and begin antibiotic treatment if necessary.
A silent UTI, like a general UTI, is an infection of the urinary tract, typically by bacteria. However, unlike a UTI, a silent UTI does not display the common UTI symptom of burning pain when urinating, which can make them more challenging to detect.
Despite being called a silent UTI, this infection still has some symptoms, including fatigue, fever, and increasing confusion. So, whenever something doesn’t feel right, it is best to discuss with your doctor any symptoms you have so that they can help you narrow down the potential causes. An untreated UTI can become a kidney infection, so this is one area where you do not want to ignore anything unusual.
- Flores-Mireles, A., Walker, J., Caparon, M., & Hultgren, S. (2015). Urinary tract infections: epidemiology, mechanisms of infection and treatment options. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 13(5), 269-284. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro3432
- Bleidorn, J., Gágyor, I., Kochen, M., Wegscheider, K., & Hummers-Pradier, E. (2010). Symptomatic treatment (ibuprofen) or antibiotics (ciprofloxacin) for uncomplicated urinary tract infection? – Results of a randomized controlled pilot trial. BMC Medicine, 8(1). doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-8-30
- Church D. L. (1996). Can a Silent Kidney Infection or Genetic Predisposition Underlie Recurrent UTIs?. Medscape women’s health, 1(9), 6.
- Sheffield, J., & Cunningham, F. (2005). Urinary Tract Infection in Women. Obstetrics &Amp; Gynecology, 106(5, Part 1), 1085-1092. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1097/01.aog.0000185257.52328.a2
- Sudden Change in Behavior? Urinary Tract Infection Could Be the Cause. (2011). https://www.alz.org/blog/alz/october_2011/sudden_change_in_behavior_urinary_tract_infection
Freitag, T., Squires, R. A., Schmid, J., Elliott, J., & Rycroft, A. N. (2006). Antibiotic sensitivity profiles do not reliably distinguish relapsing or persisting infections from reinfections in cats with chronic renal failure and multiple diagnoses of Escherichia coli urinary tract infection. Journal of veterinary internal medicine, 20(2), 245–249. https://doi.org/10.1892/0891-6640(2006)20[245:aspdnr]2.0.co;2
DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 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.