How Long Does a UTI Last?

The duration of a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) can vary depending on the severity of the infection, the type of bacteria causing the infection, where the infection is located in the urinary tract, the overall health of the individual, and how fast the person seeks treatment.

In general, uncomplicated UTIs when treated with antibiotics can last anywhere from 3 to 10 days. However, complicated UTIs may take several weeks or more to fully resolve.

With prompt and proper treatment you should see improvement in your symptoms within the first few days, but it is important to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. This will help ensure that all the bacteria causing the infection are completely eradicated and prevent any further complications.

Key takeaways:

  • Uncomplicated UTIs can last 3-10 days with proper treatment.
  • Complicated UTIs may take several weeks or more to fully resolve.
  • The exact duration depends on various factors such as severity, type of bacteria, location, and overall health.
  • Prompt and proper treatment is crucial for a speedy recovery.
  • Untreated UTIs won’t go away on their own and may lead to more serious health problems.
  • With treatment, you should notice your symptoms improving within the first few days of starting antibiotics.

Continue reading to learn more about UTIs, how long UTIs can last, and what factors affect their duration.

Table of Contents

What Is a UTI?

Urinary tract infections, also commonly called UTIs, are common infections that impact the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.

Anyone can get a UTI but it is more common in women. Women also experience recurrent UTIs.

A urinary tract infection is uncomfortable and painful. It can persist for weeks if left untreated.

Causes of UTIs

A UTI occurs when the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra, and kidneys, becomes infected by bacteria. These bacteria typically travel from the urinary tract up toward the kidneys.

People may experience an increased UTI risk when they have kidney stones, a weak immune system, a urinary catheter or diabetes.

Women with a contraceptive diaphragm are also at a greater risk of urinary tract infections.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections

There are a variety of symptoms that occur with a urinary tract infection. Here are the specific signs and symptoms for lower and upper UTIs.

Symptoms of Lower UTIs

Lower urinary tract infections affect the bladder and the urethra. While untreated lower UTIs may clear within a few weeks, they can also lead to an upper urinary tract infection that is more serious.

Lower UTIs can cause symptoms such as:

  • Discomfort or pain when urinating
  • More frequent urination
  • A sudden desire to urinate
  • Pain in your lower abdomen
  • Inability to empty your bladder fully
  • Cloudy and smelly urine
  • Urine that contains blood
  • Aches and fatigue

Symptoms of Upper UTIs

Upper urinary tract infections affect the ureters and kidneys. These types of infections have similar symptoms to lower UTIs but they can also cause:

  • Feeling sick
  • Chills and shivers
  • Confusion
  • Pain in your back or sides
  • A fever

An upper urinary tract infection that is left untreated can damage the kidneys and lead to sepsis. In severe cases, this could result in death.

How Long Does a UTI Last?

A urinary tract infection can clear within 3 to 5 days after you start treatment. The symptoms normally pass quickly with the right medication. However, complicated UTIs may take several weeks or more to fully resolve depending on the type of bacteria causing the infection and how severe it is. In some cases, recurrent UTIs can last for months.

It is important to finish the full course of antibiotics that your doctor prescribed, even if you feel as if all your symptoms are gone already.

This will ensure that your urinary tract infection is fully cleared and it also improves the chances that your UTI won’t return.

You can aid your recovery by drinking plenty of fluids, eating probiotics, and ensuring that you follow a strict hygiene regime.

How Long Does an Untreated UTI Last?

An untreated urinary tract infection can last for weeks or months and most likely won’t clear on its own. Instead, the infection will continue to progress and may spread to other parts of the body such as the kidneys.

This could lead to a complicated UTI which carries serious health risks. For example, a quarter of people with an untreated UTI experience sepsis in the urogenital tract.

In addition, 2% of women with untreated UTIs also show symptoms of kidney infections. If a kidney infection is left untreated, then this could result in kidney failure that affects the entire body.

That’s why it is essential to treat a urinary tract infection as early as possible. This prevents the spread of the bacteria to other organs.

What Affects the Length of a UTI?

The duration of a urinary tract infection depends on various factors some of which include:

  • The severity of the infection
  • Type of bacteria
  • Underlying health conditions
  • The location of the infection
  • How fast treatment is started
  • How effective the treatment is
  • Prior UTI history

The Severity of the Infection

Mild infections often resolve more quickly, especially when treated promptly. Mild UTIs may only cause slight discomfort or minor symptoms.

Severe infections, on the other hand, can last longer and may be associated with more intense symptoms like high fever, severe pain, or blood in the urine. These infections might also spread to the kidneys, leading to more complicated cases.

Type of Bacteria

While most UTIs are commonly caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), other bacteria can also cause UTIs, each with varying levels of severity and treatment.

Some of the most common UTI-causing bacteria include:

  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Staphylococcus saprophyticus
  • Enterococcus faecalis
  • Klebsiella Pneumoniae

Each of these bacteria might require different types of antibiotics, leading to variations in the length of a UTI.

Underlying Health Conditions

Many underlying health conditions can increase the length of a UTI. Conditions that weaken the immune system, like diabetes, HIV, or certain cancers, can make it harder for the body to fight off infections, potentially leading to longer UTIs.

Also. structural or functional abnormalities in the urinary tract can also cause recurrent or complicated UTIs, which may last longer than typical cases.

The Location of the Infection

The location of the infection also plays a big role in determining how long it will last. Infections in the bladder (cystitis) are usually easier to treat and resolve faster than infections in the kidneys (pyelonephritis). Kidney infections are more serious and require more aggressive treatment, often leading to a longer duration of the infection.

How Fast Treatment Is Started

When dealing with UTIs, time is of the essence. The sooner treatment is started, the quicker the infection will clear up and the less likely it is to spread or cause complications.

Delaying treatment can lead to a more severe infection that takes longer to treat.

How Effective the Treatment Is

The effectiveness of treatment mostly depends on using the right antibiotic for the specific bacteria causing the infection. Ineffective treatment, either due to antibiotic resistance or inappropriate antibiotic choice, can prolong the infection.

Also not completing the full course of antibiotics can allow some bacteria to survive and cause a recurrence of the infection, which may take longer to resolve.

Prior UTI History

People with a history of UTIs, especially if they are frequent, may experience longer or more severe infections. This could be due to a variety of factors including changes in the urinary tract environment or the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Recurrent UTIs might also indicate underlying issues that make the urinary tract more susceptible to infections.

Can a Urinary Tract Infection Go Away On Its Own?

An untreated UTI most likely won’t go away on its own. The body may initially try to fight off the infection but ultimately, antibiotics are necessary to fully clear the infection.

In extremely rare cases with very mild UTIs, young, healthy women may be able to fight off a UTI without medication, but this is not recommended or common.

A UTI that is left untreated can result in more serious health problems such as kidney damage or even sepsis. In order to prevent damage to your kidneys or bladder, it is essential that you contact your doctor if you experience UTI symptoms.

Treatment of UTIs 

Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics which kill the bacteria causing the infection. The type of antibiotic prescribed will vary based on factors such as your age, underlying health conditions, and severity of the UTI

People with a lower UTI and light symptoms may only need a 3-day court of antibiotics. However, the average treatment time is 7 to 10 days.

For more serious or recurrent UTIs, your doctor may prescribe a longer course of antibiotics.

It is important to keep in mind that only over-the-counter medication does not help treat a UTI. However, you can combine antibiotics with pain relief medication to help ease UTI discomfort and pain.

If your symptoms get worse, then make sure that you contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Is It Safe to Treat UTIs Without Antibiotics?

It is not safe to treat UTIs without antibiotics, and attempting to do so may result in more severe health problems. Antibiotics are necessary for fully clearing a UTI and preventing further complications.

Natural remedies and OTC medication can’t effectively treat a UTI on their own. However, they can be used as a supporting treatment to help ease the discomfort and symptoms of a UTI while also helping to boost your immune system.

You should never attempt to treat a UTI with natural remedies alone nor wait for the UTI to clear on its own. This can lead to serious and life-threatening complications.

Signs Your UTI Is Going Away

Similar to other infections, people notice that their symptoms are slowly improving when a UTI is clearing. They may experience less painful urination and feel better overall.

This can vary depending on the type of urinary tract infection you have and what you are doing to aid its recovery.

You can also check if your UTI is gone with home testing strips. However, this is often not necessary as the symptoms quickly improve.

Keep in mind that as you feel UTI symptoms slowly clear away you still carry on with the antibiotics treatment until the end. This will remove the UTI fully from your body.

Here are the key signs that show your urinary tract infection is passing when you start treatment with antibiotics.

Less Frequent Urination

You may notice that you have to go to the bathroom a lot less often.

Less Smelly Urine

The strong smell of your urine will go away during the course of antibiotics treatment. Your pee will also change to its normal light yellow color with a normal odor.

Less Painful Urination

Urinary tract infections lead to a stinging or burning sensation each time you pee. Once you start treatment, you will notice this uncomfortable sensation slowly going away.

Clear Your Bladder Fully

You will find that you can slowly remove all the urine from your bladder during urination.

Chills or Fever

With a UTI, you may experience fever, chills, or cold sweat. These symptoms will clear after a few days.

Lower Back Pain

Urinary tract infections commonly cause a variety of aches and pains around the body. When you start treatment, you will notice tummy pain and lower back pain disappear after some days.

How Can DrHouse Help You?

If you start to experience UTI symptoms, then it is essential that you get the right treatment quickly.

With DrHouse, you can see an online doctor in as little as 15 minutes.  The doctor will assess your symptoms and provide you with a personalized treatment plan. This means that you can get the antibiotics and pain relief medication you need to clear up your UTI safely. 

So don’t risk your health by waiting. Get the treatment you need today!

In Conclusion

A UTI can last anywhere from a few days to months depending on the severity and treatment. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience UTI symptoms, as leaving it untreated can lead to more serious health problems.

Sources:

Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

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