UTI Treatment

Urinary tract infections are a pain to deal with — literally. And depending on the cause, there may be different ways to treat UTIs. The vast majority of UTIs will be treated with antibiotics. However if, for example,  you have recurring UTIs and antibiotics aren’t working, then your doctor may suggest a different route. Or if you have what’s called a “complicated UTI,” your doctor may try other treatment methods as well. 

Regardless of the treatment plan, dealing with UTIs is frustrating, and when your trapped in the cycle of recurrent UTIs, it can be hard to see an end in sight. But everybody responds differently to various types of treatment, so finding out what works best may require some trial and error. 

Before you begin treatment, it’s important to be absolutely sure you have a UTI. Once that’s taken care of, you can figure out what to do next. 

Diagnosing a UTI

Maybe you’ve noticed it suddenly burns when you pee. Or suddenly, you have to go to the bathroom non-stop. Even when you took all the proper precautions, sometimes UTIs can get the better of us. UTI symptoms can be different in all of us, but usually, the signs of a UTI are impossible to ignore. Whatever the symptom is, the signs of a UTI are impossible to ignore. 

While many may rely on their own UTI home treatment (AKA gallons of cranberry juice), the best way to diagnose your UTI is to see a doctor. It’s also the safer route: if left untreated, UTIs can escalate into kidney infections, which can be a big problem. Also, in some cases, the symptoms of a UTI can resemble underlying issues or other conditions. Your doctor will run tests and verify whether it actually is a urinary infection so that you can begin your UTI treatment. 

Should I ever take antibiotics?

The short answer is yes. Antibiotics are almost always recommended for UTIs and are mainly required for full-blown viruses, especially pyelonephritis. Pyelonephritis, a type of urinary tract infection that has spread to the kidneys, is considered a severe upper-tract infection. These infections can be dangerous and almost always requires intravenous antibiotics. 

On the other hand, antibiotics aren’t always one-size-fits-all. Although they are meant to help restore your health, there are some downsides to taking antibiotics. There’s always a chance that your body may build resistance against them. By some estimates, up to a third of UTIs are resistant to key antibiotics, which means it can take multiple attempts with several antibiotics before finding an antibiotic that can effectively treat an infection.

You get the picture. 

Also, while antibiotics are usually effective at killing off bad bacteria, they can often kill off the good bacteria that our bodies need to stay healthy, too. That can make it more difficult to prevent future UTIs. It can also leave us vulnerable to other infections, like BV or yeast infections, which are usually kept in check by the good vaginal bacteria that can be thrown out of whack by antibiotics. 

What happens if I don’t treat my UTI?

Untreated infections have a habit of spreading throughout the body. Lower-tract infections — which are present in the bladder and urethra — can spread to the kidneys and turn into upper-tract infections. The kidneys are very sensitive, so an infection there may spread into the bloodstream and cause sepsis or shock. 

If you’re wondering how to treat a UTI at home, then there may be alternative methods. Since consistent antibiotic usage can result in resistance or even make you sicker, your doctor may recommend that you try vitamins and supplements to help prevent and treat your UTI, especially if you experience recurring ones. Either way, it’s important to speak with your doctor about alternatives before trying home remedies to treat a UTI. 

Antibiotics are the most common solution when dealing with infections of any type. If you suspect you have a UTI, the best thing you can do is see a medical professional so that you can figure out what your treatment plan will be. 

Watch for complications

While there is always a chance of experiencing side effects with medication, some people are more susceptible to complications than others. For example, people with diabetes are more likely to get complicated UTIs. Antibiotics may also be more dangerous for pregnant women since antibiotics interfere with the microbiota, which is an essential part of fetal development. 

Some common complications with antibiotics include: 

  • Recurring infections
  • Kidney or bladder damage
  • Urethral narrowing
  • Sepsis and septic shock 
  • Experiencing bacterial imbalance
  • Developing an antibiotic resistance
  • Digestion issues
  • Bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections
  • Becoming more susceptible to infections

When you are prescribed antibiotics, make sure that you watch for any important signs from your body. Women who have recurring or complicated infections might be recommended to see a specialist, like an OBGYN. In other cases, your doctor may have you try other antibiotic methods, including: 

  • Daily medication for at least six months
  • Taking a single dose after sex
  • Taking antibiotics for two to three days when symptoms show up

Always talk with your doctor about the expected side effects and risk factors that may come with your medication. Together, you might be able to find an effective prevention regimen that can help reduce your dependence on antibiotics.

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