Feel pain or a burning sensation whenever you pee? Or keep feeling like you have to pee though your bladder is quite empty? You just might be suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI).  The symptoms can be as painful as they are embarrassing, but if you suspect you have the condition, don’t freak out—it’s really common.

According to Dr Michael Wong, Urologist at Mount Elizabeth’s International Urology, Fertility and Gynaecology Centre, a UTI affects two in five women in Singapore. However, it’s also dangerous: it’s the seventh leading cause of death in Singapore.

There are three types of UTI and each involve the infection of a specific part of the urinary tract, namely the urethra, bladder and kidneys. But as long as you get yourself checked as soon as possible, your chances of recovery are very high.

A UTI can be caused by several factors

A UTI has several causes. If you wipe from back to front after peeing, the bacteria from your anus can make its way to your urethra, which can result in an infection.

The odds increase if you have kidney stones or issues emptying your bladder completely, and you may also be at higher risk just by being sexually active or pregnant. As long as bacteria is introduced into your urinary tract, there’s a chance that you might get a UTI. And since women have a shorter urethra than men, we’re more prone to getting infected.

Besides feeling a burning sensation when you pee, other symptoms to look out for include having cloudy or bad-smelling urine, and a tender or heavy belly. And if these symptoms are accompanied with a fever, nausea or a pain in one side of your back, it might be a sign that the infection has reached your kidneys.

It’s typically harmless, but can be life-threatening 

Most UTIs are bladder infections that go away if treated immediately, but they can be life-threatening if left untreated.

“A bladder infection can spread to your kidneys. A kidney infection is serious and can cause sepsis, a potentially fatal full-body inflammation,” says Dr Wong.

He adds that for reasons that doctors are still trying to understand, some women suffer from recurrent UTIs.

Think you might be suffering from an infection like that? See a doctor immediately. Most of the time, the treatment will be simple.

“Antibiotics usually cure a bladder infection. It helps to drink lots of water so that you urinate often, and to empty your bladder each time. If you have kidney stones, removal will be part of the treatment,” says Dr Wong.

If you have recurrent infections or there are additional conditions present, other tests such as an X-ray or an endoscopy (a nonsurgical procedure to examine the digestive tract) may be required to find out more about the cause.

Want to lower your risk of having a UTI? You’ve got to flush out the bacteria before they get a chance to grow. Dr Wong recommends doing this by drinking plenty of of water, urinating often and not holding your pee in. He also notes that it’s important that you pee after having sex.