Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common, particularly in women, and can lead to symptoms such as a burning sensation when urinating and pelvic pain. If left untreated, a UTI can result in more serious health problems if the infection spreads to the kidneys. The good news is that UTIs can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics.
UTIs can develop anywhere in the urinary system, but they most often occur in the bladder or urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder). Lower UTIs usually occur when bacteria enter the urethra, travel up the urinary tract, and multiply in the bladder, causing cystitis (inflammation of the bladder). Sometimes, infections may occur in the kidneys or the ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys into the bladder), which can be much more serious and lead to chronic health problems, such as kidney failure.
What Are The Signs of a UTI?
UTIs don’t always cause obvious symptoms, and symptoms may appear suddenly or grow more severe over time. In older adults, UTIs are sometimes overlooked or mistaken for other conditions. The most common UTI signs and symptoms include:
- A strong or sudden urge to urinate that doesn’t go away
- Pain or a burning sensation when urinating (dysuria)
- Urinating more often than usual, particularly at night (nocturia), and passing only small amounts of urine
- Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
- Urine that appears red, pink, or cola-colored (signs of blood in the urine)
- Persistent pelvic or lower abdominal pain
- Upper UTIs usually present with accompanying pain in the back, thighs, or side, a high fever, nausea and/or vomiting, and shivering and chills
You should contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you have symptoms of a UTI. This is because if left untreated, a UTI can lead to serious health complications, such as permanent kidney damage and sepsis, which can be life-threatening.
Antibiotic Treatment for UTIs
The aim of treatment is to relieve symptoms, treat the underlying infection, and help minimize the risk of complications.UTIs are usually treated successfully with antibiotics, which are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infections. They work to eliminate bacteria or prevent them from spreading.
In the treatment of UTIs, antibiotics are usually taken orally in tablet, capsule, or liquid form. For more serious types of UTIs, intravenous (IV) antibiotics in a hospital may be necessary.
There are a variety of antibiotics available for UTIs, and the type of antibiotic treatment required and how long to take it will depend on factors such as overall health and the type of bacteria found in the urine. For a simple UTI, the antibiotics that are most commonly used include:
- Sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (Bactrim, Bactrim DS)
- Fosfomycin (Monurol)
- Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Furadantin,Macrobid)
In rare cases, fluoroquinolone antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin, may also be used, but they are usually only recommended for a complicated UTI or kidney infection when there are no other suitable treatment options. This is because they can cause serious side effects in some people.
What Can I Expect from Treatment?
Symptoms of a UTI usually clear up within a few days of starting treatment, but antibiotics may need to be continued for a week or more. The course of treatment will depend on your symptoms and medical history. You should always take medicine as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. This is to eliminate the disease-causing bacteria, help stop the UTI from returning, and prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant properties among harmful bacteria.
If you have frequent UTIs, you should discuss this with your healthcare provider. Further investigation, such as diagnostic tests and procedures, may also be recommended to identify the root cause of the frequent UTIs.
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