UTI Treatment – Should I Use Antibiotics?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacterial entry into any part of the urinary tract, including the bladder and kidneys. UTIs are most effectively treated with antibiotics; these also help in the resolution of symptoms such as painful and frequent urination. Antibiotics kill the bacteria responsible for causing the infection. You should always take these medications with caution as prescribed by the physician as failing to do so can exacerbate the infection, affecting your blood or kidneys.

You will be prescribed an antibiotic depending on the results of your urine culture test.

What is the best antibiotic to treat my UTI?

To confirm that you have a UTI, your doctor will take a urine sample and let the microorganisms in it grow for a few days. This is called culturing and this will also confirm which pathogen is responsible for your UTI. While the test is being conducted, you may be prescribed one of the following antibiotics:

  • Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
  • Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Septra, Bactrim)
  • Cephalexin (Keflex)
  • Amoxicillin (Augmentin)
  • Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
  • Levofloxacin (Levaquin)
  • Fosfomycin (Monurol)
  • Nitrofurantoin (Macrobid, Macrodantin)

The antibiotic prescribed depends upon whether the infection is complicated or not. A complicated infection is one that causes an abnormality in the urinary tract while an uncomplicated infection does not cause any problems in the urinary tract.

One possible complication is a decrease in the diameter of ureters (tubes carrying urine from the kidneys to the bladder) or urethra (the tube that removes urine from the body). Prostate enlargement, kidney stones, and a bladder diverticulum/urinary fistula are also possible. Complicated infections are usually treated with strong, high-dose antibiotics. Severe infections sometimes need to be treated in the hospital or clinic with IV antibiotics.

Some other factors considered by your doctor when determining which antibiotic to prescribe include pregnancy, age, history of allergies to antibiotics, and side effects from medications taken in the past.

How long is the antibiotic course for UTIs?

You will usually need antibiotics for 2 or 3 days to treat uncomplicated UTIs, but some people may need treatment for 7 to 10 days. If your UTI is complicated, you may have to take medications for 2 weeks or more. The exact duration of treatment will be determined by your physician.

You might have to take a follow-up urine test if your symptoms persist even after completing the course. You may have to prolong the course of treatment if the germs are not completely gone.

If you experience recurrent UTIs, you might have to take antibiotics for a longer duration. Moreover, if sex exacerbates your UTIs, you may have to take the medication prior to sex. You may be asked to take an antibiotic whenever your UTI reappears, and the urine culture test comes out positive.

What are the side effects associated with antibiotics?

All medications have some side effects. In some people, antibiotics can cause one or more of the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Rashes
  • Nerve or tendon damage

Why do I need to complete the antibiotic course?

Since antibiotics are very effective, you might experience a rapid improvement in your symptoms when you start the course. However, you should not stop taking the medication because some bacteria in the urinary tract may be left behind if you do. When this happens, the remaining bacteria become more resistant to the antibiotic and multiply and cause UTIs that are very difficult to treat.

To ensure that all of the bacteria are wiped out, you should complete the prescribed antibiotic course. It is also helpful to take a vaginal probiotics after you finished your medication to support rebuilding the good bacteria in your vaginal microbiome.

When should I call a doctor?

UTI symptoms typically improve within a few days of treatment. Consult your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms are persistent or worsening
  • You experience the symptoms again after initial treatment
  • The side effects of the antibiotics are too troubles