When to See a Doctor for a UTI?

7037
Jessica Guht
Categorized as UTI

With lifetime incidences among adult females standing at up to 60%, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common health issues to affect women. In many cases of mild UTIs, the symptoms will clear without intervention. Nonetheless, there are many situations where seeing a doctor is essential.

In this article, we’ll look at the signs and symptoms of UTIs, when to see a doctor for a UTI, and what doctor to see for treatment.

Table of Contents

What Are UTIs?

As the name suggests, a UTI is an infection of the urinary tract. Bladder infections (cystitis), urethra infections, (urethritis), and kidney infections all fall under the umbrella of UTIs. While far more common in women, UTIs can affect males too with roughly 1 in 8 men experiencing them at some point in their lifetime.

UTIs are caused when bacteria enter the urinary tract. In the majority of cases, the infection is caused by bacteria that find their way from the anus or the vagina to the urinary tract. This, combined with the fact that women have shorter urethras than men explains why females are statistically at a greater risk. 

What Are the Signs of a UTI?

Because UTIs may occur in any part of the urinary tract, the symptoms associated with infections can vary greatly. In fact, many people don’t even know they have a UTI either won’t notice the symptoms or confuse them for something else. 

If you experience a UTI, you may experience one or more of the following issues;

  • A noticeable change in your peeing habits, especially at night,
  • Cloudy urine, dark urine, or blood in your urine,
  • Dysuria, which is characterized by a burning or stinging pain when you pee,
  • Stomach pains, particularly under the ribs,
  • A high temperature or a low temperature below 36°C.

Should You Go to the Doctor For a UTI?

As the above symptoms highlight, it is very easy to confuse UTIs with other conditions like STIs. Furthermore, scientific studies show the relationship between sex and UTIs as a single sex act with a condom in the last two weeks increases the risk of infection by 43%. So, if you are wondering whether it is worth seeing a doctor about a suspected UTI, the answer is often yes. 

While doctors aren’t the only solution for gaining antibiotics for UTIs, the knowledge that you’ll gain the right treatment for your condition is essential for your physical and mental wellness. Besides, ruling out the possibility of another health issue will provide peace of mind. For example, UTIs can be caused by underlying conditions such as kidney stones. 

When to Go to the Doctor for a UTI?

First and foremost, if you are worried about your UTI symptoms and want to see a doctor, you should not delay this process. It’s better to be over precautious and gain some clarity rather than experience the physical and mental discomfort that UTIs can bring to your life. 

While UTIs often clear without medical intervention, the correct treatment will help you overcome any distractions far sooner. Early intervention can additionally result in needing a short course of antibiotics than if you were to leave the issue untreated. An early diagnosis and treatment can also stop infections from spreading.

If any of the following issues are relevant to your situation, calling a doctor is advised:

Your UTI Won’t Go Away

Mild urinary tract infections can pass in just one week without antibiotics while even a slightly bigger infection may take 2-3 weeks. However, you should note that the symptoms begin to subside after just 48 hours. Knowing what to do when a UTI won’t go away is valuable information even after two days of mild discomfort or disruption.

It is especially important to seek support if your UTI symptoms worsen during this time but even sustained levels are a cause for concern. On a similar note, if your UTI symptoms have returned following treatment, you should see a doctor ASAP because you may not have successfully removed the bacterial infection or you’ve encountered a secondary UTI.

UTIs Keep Occurring 

While the high rates of both UTI infections and recurrent levels mean that many patients will experience multiple instances, it is abnormal to have more than two UTIs in one year. If this is the case, there could be an underlying health issue. Or you may be unwittingly increasing your risks through poor habits – like something as simple as wiping back to front.

UTIs are described as two or more in a six-month period but if you feel the symptoms semi-frequently without hitting this threshold, you should still see a doctor. Otherwise, you may continue to endure them for many years to come. Treating the condition with professional medical support is the best response by far.

You’re Pregnant

Studies show that 46% of pregnant women will experience UTI symptoms during pregnancy due to the bodily changes that they encounter while a further 4% are due to underlying UTIs. While the figures for an actual UTI are quite low, the harsh reality is that an untreated UTI in pregnancy can spread, worsen, and cause serious complications.

The complications include preterm labor, premature delivery, and fetal loss. While it would be wildly inaccurate to suggest that an untreated UTI will certainly cause these issues, the correlation between UTIs and those problems cannot be ignored. Seeing a doctor to gain a suitable treatment also ensures that pregnancy remains more comfortable.

Children or Men Have UTIs

As with women, men who leave UTIs untreated may see their infections spread further up the urinary tract toward the kidneys. Moreover, it can spread to the prostate. You can seek urgent care for UTIs as a man, just like you could as a woman. It could be a vital step to prevent complications and long-term discomfort.

Children can also have UTIs as they are simply bacterial infections. Again, they will pass without antibiotics. However, it is possible for untreated UTIs to cause permanent damage to youngsters. With this in mind, it is always best to visit a doctor if your child has symptoms of an infection of the urinary tract.

UTIs After Surgery

Urinary tract infections may occur after surgery for many reasons. However, the most common cause is the presence of a catheter, which naturally increases the risks associated with infections during and after surgery. Research has shown this to be a common problem in both hospitals and care homes.

A post-surgery UTI may clear by itself, but it’s very common for them to need antibiotic treatment. Besides, the symptoms you feel could potentially be linked to problems with the surgery itself. So, if you experience symptoms after surgery, it is advised that you book an appointment with a doctor at the earliest possible stage.

What Doctor to See For a UTI?

The type of doctor that you visit for a UTI will depend on the type and severity of your symptoms, as well as whether they are recurring issues. Generally speaking, though, you will visit one of the following:

General Healthcare Practitioner

Most UTIs, especially mild to moderate infections, can be treated by a general healthcare practitioner. In fact, UTIs are responsible for over 8.1 million visits to practitioners annually. The most common response is to gain a course of antibiotics, with the length depending on whether it’s a simple or complex infection. A healthcare practitioner can also guide you to the next response should a full course of antibiotics not work.

Urologist

Urologists specialize in matters relating to the bladder and urinary tract. So, if you experience recurring conditions – like 1 in 5 women encounter within four months of their first UTI – it may be worth visiting a urologist. They can diagnose the infection or underlying issues to help you take the right action, whether that be fluoroquinolones antibiotics, or other treatments.

Hospital Doctor

Most patients won’t need to visit the hospital and would be better suited to an emergency GP appointment. However, 4.6% of older hospitalized patients will have UTI symptoms. Alternatively, if you experience complications like shivering and being unable to speak, it is important to seek urgent care. Fortunately, this is a very unlikely scenario for you to encounter from bacterial infections in the urinary tract. 

Get Help From an Online Doctor!

While UTIs are a very common complaint, it is an area of women’s (and men’s) health that may cause some embarrassment. If you would prefer to avoid face-to-face interactions, DrHouse can connect you to an online doctor in as little as 15 minutes to discuss your symptoms, arrange urine tests if required, and identify the best treatment or antibiotics to treat your condition.

Key Takeaways

UTIs are a very common health condition, especially among adult women, and can cause a lot of discomfort even when they are not considered a threat to your long-term health. Securing a quick diagnosis and treatment can help relieve the symptoms while simultaneously reducing the risk of recurring infections.

Sources:

  • Osakwe ZT, Larson E, Shang J. Urinary tract infection-related hospitalization among older adults receiving home health care. Am J Infect Control. 2019 Jul;47(7):786-792.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2018.12.012. Epub 2019 Feb 14. PMID: 30772048; PMCID: PMC7477896.
  • Medina M, Castillo-Pino E. An introduction to the epidemiology and burden of urinary tract infections. Ther Adv Urol. 2019 May 2;11:1756287219832172. doi: 10.1177/1756287219832172. PMID: 31105774; PMCID: PMC6502976.
  • Foxman, Betsy, et al. “First-Time Urinary Tract Infection and Sexual Behavior.” Epidemiology, vol. 6, no. 2, 1995, pp. 162–68. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3702318. 
  • Krzysztof Czajkowski,Magdalena Broś-Konopielko ,Justyna Teliga-Czajkowska. Review paper: Urinary tract infection in women. Menopause Rev 2021; 20(1): 40-47. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5114/pm.2021.105382
  • John W. Warren, Catheter-associated urinary tract infections, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, Volume 17, Issue 4, 2001, Pages 299-303, ISSN 0924-8579, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0924-8579(00)00359-9.
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) symptoms, causes, and remedies. Medical News Today. Available from:https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/189953 
  • Prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections in women, Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin 2013;51:69-74.

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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