What to Do With a UTI That Won’t Go Away?

UTIs (urinary tract infections) can be painful and disrupt your life. If you have one right now, you’re not alone. According to official figures, UTIs are responsible for more than 8.1 million visits to healthcare providers every year. And 60 percent of women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. 

Antibiotics get rid of most UTIs, but some can hang around. This post explores what to do with a UTI that won’t go away!

Table of Contents

Why Won’t My UTI Go Away?

In this section, we cover the most common reasons why a UTI won’t go away. 

You’re Taking the Wrong Antibiotics

Antibiotics work against most urinary tract infections. However, today, standard prescriptions aren’t always effective. According to research, many strains are resistant to the most common antibiotics handed out by physicians, such as amoxicillin, meaning that they have no effect.

Fortunately, other antibiotic agents are available, such as nitrofurantoin and fluoroquinolones. And these do still eliminate most UTI-causing bacteria. 

Once you switch, you should be symptom-free in 5 to 7 days.

Your Infection Is Resistant to Multiple Antibiotics

Unfortunately, multi-antibiotic-resistant UTIs are on the rise. Because of this, even if you take a range of antibiotics, including some last-line-of-defense medications, it may not be enough to get rid of your infection. According to research, certain Gram-negative UTI bacteria are now resistant to entire antibiotic classes, including penicillins, cephalosporins, trimethoprim, and fluoroquinolones. 

In these cases, medical professionals can only offer limited help to patients. Medications cannot eliminate the infection, leading to chronic, long-term disease.

You’re Not Treating the Cause

Even if antibiotics succeed in eliminating the infection, UTIs may return if you do not treat the cause. 

In women, UTIs are more likely because of the position of the urethra – the small tube that connects the bladder to the outside world. Bacteria from the vagina and anus find it easier to move up this tube and multiply in the bladder, kidneys, and the tubes connecting them. 

Sexual intercourse further increases the risk of infection. Mechanical action disrupts bacteria on the surface and can move them closer to the urethral opening

While you can’t change your anatomy, there are lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce your risk. 

First, you can increase fluid intake. Extra water flushes out the bladder regularly, giving bacteria less time to multiply. 

Second, you can avoid holding urine in your bladder for long periods. Again, this reduces your risk of infection by flushing out the urinary tract more often.

You can also work to improve your general health and reduce stress. Conditions such as diabetes, for instance, increase the risk of developing UTIs because they make it more challenging for your body to fight infections. 

If you are a woman, you should also wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet. This action minimizes the risk of fecal matter entering the vagina and causing infection. 

You Didn’t Finish Your Antibiotics Course

You should start to feel better after a couple of days of taking antibiotics. Medications kill off UTI bacteria, helping your immune system get the upper hand, and improving your symptoms. 

However, UTIs can recur if you don’t finish your course of antibiotics. That’s because failing to take antibiotics for the recommended number of days provides a window of opportunity for resistant bacteria to develop. 

If this happens, you won’t be able to go back on the same drug. You’ll need to take a new antibiotic that can kill the bacteria infecting you. 

You’re Getting Improper Treatment

Some people believe that natural and alternative treatments can eliminate UTIs and cystitis. However, home remedies aren’t always effective. Most UTIs require antibiotic treatment to resolve. 

Your Personal Hygiene Is Poor

Bad hygiene can be a cause of a UTI not going away. Fecal matter around the anus can migrate to the vaginal opening, causing infection. However, failing to wash regularly isn’t a major cause of infection. 

You Delayed Getting Treatment

Lastly, delaying treatment can lead to secondary infections and serious complications, particularly in elderly patients.  One study found that postponing antibiotics in adults over 65 with urinary tract infections increased the risk of severe outcomes significantly. Bloodstream infections and all-cause mortality were higher in groups that deferred taking antibiotics. 

How Long Should UTIs Last?

How long UTIs last depends on whether they are “complicated” or “uncomplicated.”

Uncomplicated UTIs affect the lower urinary system (such as the bladder or urethra) in isolation. Patients don’t have any other medical conditions or special status. 

Usually, these infections are gone within three to seven days following an antibiotic intervention, though some doctors might recommend taking antimicrobial medications for up to fourteen days. Drugs help the immune system clear out bacteria rapidly, returning the body to health. 

Patients with complicated UTIs may have symptoms that last a couple of weeks or more. Pregnant or post-menopausal women and patients with catheters and nephrostomy tubes make take longer to clear the infection, even with the help of antibiotics. 

Complicated UTIs can also occur if bacteria are resistant to multiple drugs. Physicians may have to send urine samples off to the lab for culture testing to see which medications can kill the infective strain, if any. 

Patients with complicated UTIs may require up to 14 days of intravenous antibiotics in the hospital. Physicians monitor their condition until the infection goes away.

What to Do if Your UTI Won’t Go Away?

If you can’t get rid of a UTI, you should reach out to your doctor. 

Most physicians will prescribe antibiotics for UTIs without performing a culture test first. That’s because the E.coli that causes most infections is a well-studied bacteria and typically dies when it comes into contact with first-line drugs. 

However, a significant proportion of UTIs (around 10 percent), don’t respond at all to standard drugs. That’s either because the patient is harboring a multi-drug resistant form of E.coli, or another type of bacteria, a fungal infection, or a virus. In some rare cases, the patient may not have a UTI infection at all but rather a condition that produces similar symptoms. 

If you do not respond to antibiotics, your doctor will provide a culture and lab tests. These find out whether bacteria are causing your UTI and which drugs can treat them. 

If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor will change your medications based on the results of the culture. You may have to take a different type of antibiotic with more side effects. 

If you have some other type of infection or disease, then your doctor will treat that instead. Bladder cancer, genital herpes, vaginitis, kidney stones, and overactive bladder can all cause similar symptoms. 

If UTI symptoms continue to linger after infection, your doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes. These including: 

  • Eating more fruits and vegetables to support the immune system
  • Taking regular probiotics to foster the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and stools
  • Drinking more water to flush bacteria from the urinary tract
  • Consuming cranberry juice which contains sugars that reduce the ability of bacteria to cling to the walls of your urinary tract
  • Taking a garlic or cranberry juice extract supplement

UTI Complications

While kidney infections and UTIs are quite common, they can lead to some serious complications if left untreated. 

For instance, people with recurrent or chronic UTIs may suffer kidney damage. Bacteria can harm the delicate structures in these organs that filter blood. 

Women with ongoing UTIs while pregnant may give birth to underweight or severely premature children. They may also get recurrent infections. Initial infections may increase the likelihood of subsequent infections developing. 

Lastly, untreated UTIs can lead to sepsis, a condition where the immune system becomes overwhelmed by the number of bacteria in the body. The risk of the condition developing increases when the infection travels from the bladder to the kidneys. 

When to See a Doctor?

A small percentage of UTIs will go away by themselves or with the help of home remedies, such as drinking more water. However, most require antibiotics. 

For this reason, you should contact your doctor quickly, within a few days of developing symptoms. If you have symptoms of an upper UTI (in the kidneys), such as side abdominal pain, you should contact a doctor immediately as it may represent a more serious condition. 

How Can DrHouse Help?

If you’re experiencing UTI symptoms that won’t go away, our online doctors can help. At DrHouse, we offer fast, convenient access to quality healthcare. With our on-demand virtual doctor visits, you can receive the care and treatment you need within 15 minutes or less.

Our clinicians can help you with a range of issues, from urinary tract infections to kidney infections. Our online doctors will diagnose, create a treatment plan, offer advice on how to prevent UTIs in the future, and prescribe medication if necessary.

Don’t delay seeing a doctor if you think you have a UTI. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications. DrHouse is here to help you get the care and treatment you need.

Key Takeaways

  • UTIs are usually caused by E.coli infections of the bladder, kidneys, and the tubes connecting them. 
  • Viruses, other bacteria, and fungi can also cause UTIs
  • UTIs are more likely to be chronic or recurrent if you don’t have proper hygiene, fail to drink enough water or wipe from back to front
  • UTIs won’t go away unless you use the right type of antibiotic and complete the course, as prescribed by your doctor
  • If you have symptoms of an upper UTI (affecting the kidneys), you should seek medical help immediately. 

Sources:

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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