As UTIs are normally caused by bacteria, they are most commonly treated with antibiotics or antimicrobials.
The type of medication and length of treatment will depend on the symptoms and medical history of the individual.
The full course of treatment should always be completed for UTIs to make sure that the infection is fully clear, and to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance. UTI symptoms can disappear before the infection has completely gone.
Drinking lots of fluids and frequently urinating are always recommended for people who have UTIs as this helps to flush out the bacteria. A variety of pain relief medications may be prescribed to alleviate pain. Applying a heating pad to the back or abdomen can also help.
An uncomplicated UTI is one that occurs in an otherwise healthy person with a normal clear urinary tract. These can usually be cured with 2 to 3 days of treatment.
A complicated UTI is one that occurs in a person who is weakened by another condition, such as pregnancy or heart transplant. Complicated UTIs tend to require longer periods of antibiotics, usually between 7 to 14 days.
To cure a UTI that is caused by problems within the urinary system, the underlying issue needs to be found and corrected. If left untreated, these infections can lead to kidney damage.
If the person is seriously ill, they may need to be admitted to a hospital to ensure that they take in sufficient fluids and receive the right medication. People may also need to go to the hospital if they are one of the following:
- pregnant and are otherwise ill
- older adults
- people with cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, or other medical problems
- individuals with kidney stones or other changes in their urinary tract
- recovering from recent urinary tract surgery
Recurrent infections in women
Women who have recurrent bladder infections may be advised to:
- Take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual contact
- Take a single, daily dose of an antibiotic for at least 6 months
- Take a 2-to-3-day course of an antibiotic if symptoms reappear
- Undergo vaginal estrogen therapy if they have already had menopause
There are a number of suggested remedies that people with a UTI can try at home.
Drinking fluids and urinating frequently can help flush bacteria from the body, and using a heated pad for short periods can help to relieve discomfort.
It is also often said that cranberries and their extracts could treat UTI.
Cranberry extracts do not help treat existing UTIs but may help prevent their development.
This is because cranberries contain compounds called proanthocyanidins that prevent E. coli from sticking to the walls of the digestive and urinary tracts.
In a large meta-analysis, researchers found that women with recurrent UTIs who took cranberry over 12 months had a 35 percent reduction in infections.
Another large clinical trial found that 500 milligrams (mg) of cranberry extract taken daily for 6 months reduced the rate of UTI to the same extent as 100 mg of trimethoprim, an antibiotic, without posing a risk of antimicrobial resistance or super-infection in women with recurrent UTIs.
Cranberry extract tablets appear to be twice as effective as cranberry juice for preventing UTIs, which may be due in part to the sugar content of cranberry juice. Cranberry extracts also contain anthocyanins and salicylic acid. This may have a painkilling and anti-inflammatory effect that can help alleviate UTI symptoms.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommend cranberry products to prevent recurrent UTIs, but not for use in active UTIs.
Changes in the bacterial balance of the genitourinary tract can increase the likelihood of colonization by organisms such as E. coli. Regular use of probiotics may help reduce the risk of UTIs, especially after a course of antibiotics.
In particular, Bifidobacterium longum has shown an ability to prevent undesirable bacteria sticking to the walls of the intestinal tract, in addition to enhancing production of natural antibacterial chemicals and organic acids, thereby reducing the likelihood of UTI.
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