Chances are you’ve experienced a stinging sensation while peeing before. Then, five minutes after closing the bathroom door, you felt like you have to go again. At this point, you probably think to yourself, Great, another UTI.
How long does a UTI last again?
That depends on how serious your infection is. But some basics first: A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by bacteria entering the urethra. That’s the tube that lets urine leave the body and bladder. But it can also spread to the upper urinary tract and kidneys, says Dr James Elist, a urologist.
A UTI can be complicated or uncomplicated based on how far up it has travelled. “An uncomplicated UTI occurs in the lower urinary tract, typically the bladder and urethra,” explains Dr Elist. “It’s considered uncomplicated because it can be effectively treated with antibiotics and does not usually lead to serious complications.” A complicated UTI, on the other hand, extends beyond the bladder and is typically more severe and difficult to treat.
In both cases, typical symptoms include the urgency to pee and pain during urination, but blood in urine, fever, bladder inflammation, urinary incontinence, abdominal or back discomfort, strong-smelling urine, and genital irritation can also occur.
When it comes to a UTI, though, you don’t want to mess around. Here’s everything you need to know about this infection, according to urologists, including how long it lasts with and without treatment, and how to speed up recovery ASAP.
Meet the experts: James Elist is a urologist and the founder of the Penuma implant. Yanina Barbalat is a urologist at Beth Israel Lahey Health.
How long does a UTI last untreated?
Believe it or not, about 30 to 40 per cent of women can clear a UTI without taking antibiotics. An uncomplicated UTI can last seven to 10 days, says Dr Yanina Barbalat, a urologist at Beth Israel Lahey Health, but sometimes it takes up to six weeks.
However, a complicated UTI may last for weeks or even months if left untreated, because the bacteria will continue to multiply, allowing the infection to spread to the kidneys, notes Dr. Elist.
That said, even if you think you have an uncomplicated UTI, you should always check in with your doc, says Dr Elist. They’ll order a urinalysis to confirm that you have an infection.
How long does a UTI last with antibiotics?
If you have symptoms of a UTI and a urine analysis confirms the diagnosis, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics whether you have an uncomplicated or complicated UTI, says Dr Elist. For uncomplicated UTIs, antibiotics will typically make you feel better within a few days. Complicated cases often require a longer or even a second course of medication. Recovery may take one to two weeks or even a month, he adds.
If your urine test comes back positive but you don’t have any symptoms, you won’t need antibiotics. “I often tell people it’s kind of like the bacteria on your skin, which doesn’t mean you always need to be on antibiotics. Because some people have bacteria that colonize and it just sort of coexists with the person,” adds Dr Barbalat. “It doesn’t need to be treated unless it’s actually causing you issues.”
And while you’ll likely notice an improvement within two days of taking antibiotics, make sure to continue taking it and finish all the pills you’re prescribed, says Dr Barbalat. Stopping treatment early may leave some bacteria in the bladder, which can potentially lead to a more serious infection.
If symptoms get worse or continue for more than a week, see a doctor immediately because it could be a sign of a more severe infection in the kidney or bladder, says Dr Elist.
How do I know if my UTI has gone away?
You’ll know a UTI has gone away when you no longer have symptoms, says Dr Barbalat. If you’ve taken an antibiotic and your symptoms are gone, then that’s it, according to the American Urological Association.
If your urine test comes back positive but you don’t have any symptoms, you won’t need antibiotics.And while most symptoms will go away in a week, you may still feel a burning sensation when you pee or an urgency to use the bathroom for two to three weeks after, says Dr Barbalat. “That just means the bladder is still inflamed and irritated, so you don’t actually need antibiotics, you just need a little bit of TLC,” she explains. “Drink lots of fluids, stay away from spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, and other things that can irritate the bladder. Just give your body a little bit of time to recover.”
If your remaining symptoms continue to linger after a month post-antibiotic, check in with your primary care physician ASAP.
How can I get rid of a UTI faster?
The best way to speed up recovery (besides taking antibiotics) is to stay hydrated and drink lots of fluids, says Dr Barbalat. You should also keep the genitals and surrounding area clean and dry, and wash your hands often.
To ease any pain or discomfort, Dr Elist suggests applying a heating pad to your abdomen and/or back, wearing loose clothing, and taking an OTC medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Now you may be thinking, What about cranberry juice? “Cranberry juice will actually irritate the bladder because it’s sour, so a lot of people will drink it when they have an infection and it can actually make symptoms worse,” says Dr Barbalat. So, to minimize further inflammation, stay away from cranberry juice until you’re all better.
That said, cranberry supplements are a good way to prevent UTIs, per Dr Barbalat. “Cranberries have active compounds called PACs [proanthocyanidins], which do not allow bacteria to bind to the bladder, so you instead pee the bacteria out,” she explains.
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However, if you’re prone to UTIs (you have more than two within six months, or three within a year), you must have the right cranberry supplement, stresses Dr Barbalat. “Most over-the-counter pills do not have enough PACs for them to be effective enough. Studies show that you need at least 36 milligrams of soluble PACs.”
In terms of things you should avoid when you have a UTI, Dr. Barbalat suggests steering clear of foods that are irritating to the bladder. This includes sour or acidic fruits like lemons, oranges, kiwi, or pineapple, alcohol, soda, and artificial sweetener. It’s also best to avoid anti-bacterial or fragranced soap because this can kill the good bacteria in your vagina, dry out the surrounding area, and cause inflammation of the tissue, she adds.
And it’s best to avoid sex while you’re still symptomatic, says Dr Barbalat. “It’s technically okay to have sex with a UTI, but the symptoms will get worse if you’re not 100 per cent better.” Additionally, if you engage in sexual activity following a positive UTI result, you could reintroduce the bacteria into the bladder, causing extended symptoms or even a recurrent infection, says Dr Elist.
This article was originally published on Women’s Health US More