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Overview of Urinary Tract Symptoms

By Anuja P. Shah, MD, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA;Harbor-UCLA Medical Center

Kidney and urinary tract disorders can involve one or both kidneys, one or both ureters, the bladder, or the urethra, and in men, the prostate, one or both testes, or the epididymis.

Some urinary tract disorders rarely cause symptoms until the problem is very advanced. These include kidney failure, tumors and stones that do not block urine flow, and some low-grade infections. Sometimes, symptoms occur but are very general or vague and are not always obviously related to the kidneys. For example, a general feeling of illness (malaise), loss of appetite, or nausea may be the only symptoms of advanced kidney failure. In older people, mental confusion may be the first recognized symptom of infection or kidney failure. Symptoms that are more suggestive of a kidney or urinary problem include pain in the side (flank), swelling of the feet or legs, and problems with urination.

Incontinence is an uncontrollable loss of urine, which can have a variety of causes (see Urinary Incontinence in Adults).

* This is the Consumer Version. *