UTI Antibiotics: Knowing the Potential Side Effects

Urinary tract infections are one of the most common infections to be found across the world, being a medical problem that can only be completely cured by the use of prescribed antibiotics.

As with all kinds of medication, there are certain side effects that can occur when taking antibiotics for UTIs and in this article, we are going to be looking at these side effects in more detail. Let’s get started. 

Table of Contents

Which Antibiotics are Commonly Used to Treat UTIs?

There are certain antibiotics that are more commonly used than others to treat UTIs, though the medication prescribed depends on a range of factors such as the severity of the infection, the age of the individual, etc. 

Oral antibiotics are the most common UTI antibiotic, but there are also injectable options. Injectable drugs tend to only be prescribed to those with very severe, debilitating infections.

Oral Antibiotics 

  • Azithromycin: Often used for treating infections of the ears, sinuses, chest, and STIs as well as UTIs. They can also be prescribed for pneumonia and Lyme disease. 
  • Cefixime: In the class of cephalosporin antibiotics known for treating various bacterial infections, including UTIs.
  • Cefuroxime: Cefuroxime is used for bacterial infections as well as pneumonia, Lyme disease, sepsis, and meningitis. 
  • Ciprofloxacin: Part of the group of drugs known as fluoroquinolones and used for the treatment of various infections as well as conjunctivitis. 
  • Cotrimoxazole: Taken as either an oral tablet or oral suspension (liquid), Cotrimoxazole is a combination antibiotic used to treat various bacterial infections. 
  • Levofloxacin: Treats a range of bacterial infections, but has also been used to treat those who have been exposed to certain strains of plague and anthrax. 
  • Nitrofurantoin: Whilst not as effective for kidney infections, nitrofurantoin is most well-known for treating UTIs

Injectable Antibiotics

  • Ceftriaxone: Another member of the cephalosporin antibiotic family, Ceftriaxone treats infections from bone and joint infections to intra-abdominal infections to name a few. 
  • Gentamicin: Treats severe bacterial infections such as UTIs, as well as bone infections and endocarditis and other conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease and sepsis. 
  • Meropenem: Treats bacterial infections as well as severe conditions such as anthrax and sepsis.

Possible Side Effects of UTI Antibiotics 

Let’s now get into some of the side effects that can be experienced with antibiotics to treat UTIs. 

  • Abdominal Pain: This can be caused by the alteration of the normal bacterial flora within the tummy. Whilst this alteration will help to decrease the bad bacteria causing the urinary tract infection, it can cause some discomfort and pain. Abdominal pain can also be caused by irritation of the gastric wall, which is quite common with UTI antibiotics. 
  • Allergic Reactions: This is a possible side effect with most drugs, so always be wary of possible allergy symptoms. These reactions can range from itchiness, rashes, and runny noses to more severe reactions. It is rare, but certain allergic reactions can be life-threatening, such as anaphylaxis. If you know you have certain allergies, then make sure to talk to your doctor. 
  • Diarrhea: A common side effect, diarrhea can be caused by broad-spectrum antibiotics. These antibiotics are effective against a range of microorganisms and will destroy a wider range of bacteria. This includes the good bacteria in the intestine, which will lead to diarrhea. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration if you are suffering with diarrhea as a side effect. 
  • Dizziness: Certain kinds of UTI antibiotics have been known to cause dizziness, including nitrofurantoin and azithromycin to name a few. 
  • Drowsiness: Antibiotic associated fatigue is also common and can be made worse when paired with other medications such as antidepressants and antihistamines. Though drowsiness isn’t usually severe with UTI antibiotics, it can become more likely with a severe infection. 
  • Fungal Infections: Another side effect that can be caused by the destruction of good bacteria, fungal infections can occur when the healthy flora that stops the growth of fungus on mucosa and skin is destroyed by the antibiotics. 
  • Headache: Headaches are common with most antibiotics, though they can be more common for older patients or those with underlying health conditions. Intractable headaches and headaches accompanied by convulsions are rare, but are possible, so make sure to speak with your doctor immediately if you experience this. 
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Similar to the abdominal pain symptom, nausea and vomiting can be caused by the disturbance of bacteria in the body. It is usually mild and will pass after you have taken your course of antibiotics, but speak with your doctor if it is ongoing after you have finished your dosage or if it is particularly severe. 

How Can DrHouse Help You?

DrHouse can help you identify, manage and treat your UTI symptoms as well as prescribe the best antibiotics for your particular infection. Our licensed clinicians are here to help you make sense of all the information out there and to guide you toward a speedy recovery.

We offer on-demand online doctor visits 24/7, so you can get the help and treatment you need when you need it. We also understand that having a UTI is often embarrassing or inconvenient, so you can get the same quality, professional care from the comfort of your home.

If you think you may have a UTI, don’t hesitate to get in touch with DrHouse. We are here to help you understand your symptoms and provide the best treatment plan for you!

Final Thoughts

So there you have some useful info on the possible side effects that can occur when taking antibiotics for UTIs. 

Keep in mind that not everyone will experience these side effects. In fact, many people don’t experience any side effects at all. 

The most common side effects are found in between 10% and 20% of patients, whilst the more severe ones are found in less than 1% of patients, so try not to worry too much!

Make sure to have a thorough chat with your doctor about the best antibiotic for your situation and the possible side effects to put your mind at ease. 

Sources:

  • Urinary Tract Infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html 
  • Foxman, B. The epidemiology of urinary tract infection. Nat Rev Urol 7, 653–660 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrurol.2010.190 
  • Kathryn O’Brien, Sharon Hillier, Sharon Simpson, Kerenza Hood, Christopher Butler, An observational study of empirical antibiotics for adult women with uncomplicated UTI in general practice, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Volume 59, Issue 6, June 2007, Pages 1200–1203, https://doi.org/10.1093/jac/dkm108
  • Stone, L. Which antibiotics for UTI?. Nat Rev Urol 15, 396 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41585-018-0022-0
  • Albert X, Huertas I, Pereiro I, Sanfélix J, Gosalbes V, Perrotta C. Antibiotics for preventing recurrent urinary tract infection in non‐pregnant women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001209. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001209.pub2.

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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