Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Quick GuideUrinary Tract Infection (UTI) Pictures Slideshow: Bladder Infection Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Pictures Slideshow: Bladder Infection Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

What kinds of doctors treat urinary tract infections?

Most urinary tract infections can be treated by your primary-care doctor (including family medicine and internal-medicine specialists, as well as gynecologists) or your child's pediatrician. They are usually the best provider to treat you as they are most familiar with your medical history, medications you are taking, and other factors that might affect your treatment. If you seek treatment in an urgent-care facility, a specialist in emergency medicine may be involved in your care.

If there are frequent reoccurrences of UTIs or if complicating circumstances are present, your primary-care doctor might refer you to a urologist, a physician who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to the urinary system.

Are there home remedies for a urinary tract infection?

There are a variety of self-care measures (home remedies) and other treatments available for urinary tract infections.

  • Use a hot-water bottle to ease pain.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods, all of which irritate the bladder.
  • There are some indications that cranberry juice can help fight a urinary tract infection.

Because the symptoms of a urinary tract infection mimic those of other conditions, someone should see a health-care professional if a urinary tract infection is suspected. A urine test is needed to confirm an infection. Self-care is not recommended.

It's possible to reduce the discomfort by taking the following steps:

  • Follow the health-care professional's treatment recommendations.
  • Finish all antibiotic medication even if feeling better before the medication is gone.
  • Take a pain-relieving medication.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking irritates the bladder and is known to cause bladder cancer.

What is the treatment for a urinary tract infection?

The usual treatment for both simple and complicated urinary tract infections is antibiotics. The type of antibiotic and duration of treatment depend on the circumstances. Examples of common antibiotics used in treatment include, but are not limited to, amoxicillin, sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (Bactrim), ciprofloxacin, nitrofurantoin (Macrobid), and many others. Your health-care provider will chose the appropriate medication for your condition and the specific causative organisms.

Lower urinary tract infection (cystitis)

  • In an otherwise healthy person, a three-day course of antibiotics is usually enough. Some providers prefer a seven-day course of antibiotics. Occasionally, a single dose of an antibiotic is used. A health-care professional will determine which of these options is best.
  • In adult males, if the prostate is also infected (prostatitis), four weeks or more of antibiotic treatment may be required.
  • Adult females with potential for or early involvement of the kidneys, urinary tract abnormalities, or diabetes are usually given a five- to seven-day course of antibiotics.
  • Children with uncomplicated cystitis are usually given a 10-day course of antibiotics.
  • To alleviate burning pain during urination, phenazopyridine (Pyridium) or a similar drug, can be used in addition to antibiotics for one to two days.

Upper urinary tract infection (pyelonephritis)

  • Young, otherwise healthy patients with symptoms of pyelonephritis can be treated as outpatients. They may receive IV fluids and antibiotics or an injection of antibiotics in the emergency department, followed by 10-14 days of oral antibiotics. They should follow up with their health-care professional in one to two days to monitor improvement.
  • If someone is very ill, dehydrated, or unable to keep anything in his or her stomach because of vomiting, an IV will be inserted into the arm. He or she will be admitted to the hospital and given fluids and antibiotics through the IV until he/she is well enough to switch to an oral antibiotic.
  • A complicated infection may require treatment for several weeks.

A person may be hospitalized if he or she has symptoms of pyelonephritis and any of the following:

  • Appear very ill
  • Are pregnant
  • Have not gotten better with outpatient antibiotic treatment
  • Have underlying diseases that compromise the immune system (diabetes is one example) or are taking immunosuppressive medication
  • Are unable to keep anything in the stomach because of nausea or vomiting
  • Had previous kidney disease, especially pyelonephritis, within the last 30 days
  • Have a device such as a urinary catheter in place
  • Have kidney stones

Urethritis in men and women can be caused by the same bacteria as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Therefore, people with symptoms of STDs (vaginal or penile discharge, for example) should be treated with appropriate antibiotics.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/26/2016

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