Treating Urinary Tract Infections

Typically, UTIs are relatively mild bacterial infections of the bladder or urethra, parts of your body that make urination possible. (Learn More – Urinary Tract Infection)

And while UTIs can be deeply uncomfortable, easy and effective treatments are widely available. With the right medical help, you’ll banish the offending bacteria from your body and start feeling better in no time. 

If you’re experiencing discomfort while urinating or noticing other concerning signs of urinary tract trouble, prescription antibiotics are typically necessary. (Learn More – What are the Symptoms of a UTI) 

In these circumstances, you’ll need to consult your doctor about appropriate treatment options, explaining the frequency and severity of your symptoms. (Learn More – Prescription Antibiotics)

Furthermore, consulting a doctor is essential to preventing more serious medical issues, especially if your symptoms are prolonged or acute. While most UTIs are limited to the bladder and urinary tract,(Learn More – Treating Infections of the Bladder and Urinary Tract) infections can spread to the kidneys if left unaddressed, requiring more intensive treatment. (Learn More – If the Infection Goes to Your Kidneys)

In addition to medications, numerous home remedies can be used to help expedite the healing process. (Learn More – Home Remedies for UTIs)

Many over-the-counter medicines can also help ease symptoms. Moreover, you can take concrete steps to reduce the likelihood that you’ll develop a UTI, thereby avoiding future discomfort or a trip to the doctor. (Learn More – Prevention)

In this article, we’ll discuss all of these treatment and prevention possibilities, providing concise descriptions of each approach. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a solid understanding of what to do if and when you get a UTI.

Urinary Tract Infections

While our urinary systems are designed to keep bacteria out, UTIs typically occur when germs enter the urethra, eventually multiplying and often spreading to the bladder. UTIs are usually caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a form of bacteria typically found in the gastrointestinal tract. 

UTIs usually occur because bacteria from the anus has entered the urethra. Because these two organs are quite close in the female body, UTIs are significantly more common in women than in men. While sexual activity can increase the likelihood of this transfer of bacteria, one can also develop a UTI without having sex as well.

Because the pain associated with UTIs can be relatively mild, some individuals are tempted to hold off on seeking medical help, hoping the discomfort will simply resolve itself. But UTIs are best treated early, before they spread to other parts of your urinary system. 

If you suspect that you have a UTI, don’t hesitate to call your doctor, especially if you’ve had one in the past. While over-the-counter medicines and home remedies may help, they’re no substitute for the services of a trained medical professional.

What Are the Symptoms of a UTI?

The major symptoms of UTIs include the following issues:

  • Problems starting urination.
  • A burning sensation during urination.
  • Frequently feeling an intense urge to urinate even though you produce very little urine.
  • Pressure or pain in your lower abdomen or back.
  • Dark, cloudy, bloodied, or unusual smelling urine.
  • Fatigue or feeling shaky or jittery.
  • Chills or fever, which is more likely to occur if the infection has spread to your kidneys.

While these symptoms may also be associated with other conditions as well, they are highly indicative of a UTI, especially when several occur simultaneously. Accordingly, discuss them with a doctor at your earliest opportunity. 

Over-the-Counter UTI Treatments

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort associated with a UTI, you might try over-the-counter medications to ease such symptoms. You can use these medications prior to visiting a doctor, or in conjunction with prescribed antibiotics to relieve pain.

Some of the over-the-counter medicines that may be useful include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen products (Advil) or analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). These general pain relievers can help keep discomfort at bay, but they will not treat the underlying infection causing your pain.

Phenazopyridine is a drug designed to treat UTI symptoms more specifically, targeting pain and urinary problems. It is available over the counter in low doses, appearing in drugs such as Uristat, AZO, and Pyridium. Like other pain relievers, however, it will not eliminate the infection causing your discomfort.

Prescription Antibiotic Medications

When you visit your doctor and describe your symptoms, you’ll likely be asked for a urinary sample. After analyzing the bacteria present in your urine, your doctor can prescribe an appropriate antibiotic to treat your specific infection.

Additionally, the selection of a proper antibiotic will depend on the current location of the infection. Bacteria in the bladder and urinary tract will demand different treatments than infections that have advanced to the kidneys.

Treating Infections of the Bladder and Urinary Tract 

When the bacterial infection is limited to the bladder and/or urinary tract (uncomplicated cystitis), the first-line antibiotics prescribed will often be one of the following medications:

If you use any of these antibiotics, your symptoms should typically resolve within five to seven days. If you have recurrent UTIs or more severe symptoms, it may take longer. 

These medications may not be appropriate if you have a fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, or pain in your back associated with the infection. These issues may signal that you have a kidney infection. 

Other antibiotics like Zithromax (azithromycin or a “Z-Pak”) might be used in certain instances, but they would most likely not be the first choice of most physicians. This medication would more likely be used to treat a sexually transmitted disease, respiratory infection, skin infection, or some other bacterial issue.

If the Infection Goes Your Kidneys

If you develop a kidney infection (pyelonephritis), oral antibiotics such as amoxicillin, penicillin, or ciprofloxacin may be used. Treatment for serious infections of this kind may require a longer course of antibiotics. Your physician may recommend complementary interventions as well, such as getting more rest to help you recover.

Home Remedies for UTIs


There are several at-home treatments that you can use to expedite your recovery process. When used in conjunction with antibiotics, these measures can help relieve symptoms and target the underlying infection.  Before moving forward with these treatments, however, consult your doctor to ensure that they won’t interfere with prescribed antibiotics.

 

Here are some popular home remedies that experts suggest may help treat UTIs:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids can help to flush out your urinary tract. This can promote healing, clearing the infection from your bladder and kidneys. 
  • Drinking cranberry juice, long a popular home remedy to treat UTIs. Cranberries may contain substances that keep bacteria from remaining in your bladder and urinary tract. Eating dried cranberries could also be helpful.
  • Increasing your intake of Vitamin C to decrease the acidity in your urine. This may help you get rid of bacteria in your urinary tract.
  • Taking other supplements such as probiotics, though more research supporting these approaches is still needed.

Prevention

While we’ve discussed many effective UTI treatment options, it’s best to prevent bacteria from forming in the urinary tract in the first place. Thankfully, prevention is possible and relatively simple. 

If you have recurrent UTIs, or are simply concerned about contracting one, it’s a smart idea to engage in these preventive practices: 

  • Practice good hygiene, especially in your genital areas.
  • Urinate after sex to flush bacteria out of your urinary tract.
  • Drink plenty of water. 
  • Do not hold your urine. Go when you feel the urge. 
  • After using the toilet, wipe from front to back.
  • Discuss your preferred method of contraception with your doctor. Certain methods may increase the risk of bacterial transfer. 

We hope this article has demystified UTIs and adequately described common treatment methods. With the right medical help and sound practices moving forward, there’s no reason UTIs should continue to disrupt your daily life or create lasting health issues. As always, it’s best to consult your doctor as soon as possible if you notice concerning symptoms. 

References

Do You Really Have to Go to the Doctor for a UTI? (October 2017). Self.

Urinary tract infection (UTI). (January 2019). Mayo Clinic.

E. coli (Escherichia coli). (December 2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Everything You Need to Know About Urinary Tract Infection. (August 2017). Healthline.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). (October 2017). WebMD. 

Pyridium. (October 2018). RxList. 

Antibiotics for UTIs: What to Know. (August 2018). WebMD.

Nitrofurantoin, Oral Capsule. (May 2018). Healthline. 

Fosfomycin.  (July 2019). MedlinePlus.

Sulfamethoxazole / Trimethoprim. (January 2019). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  

Zithromax. (April 2019). RxList.

6 Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infections. (April 2017). Healthline. 

Cranberries for Preventing Urinary Tract Infections. (October 2012). Cochrane Library.

Best Ways to Help Prevent UTIs. (February 2019). WebMD.