A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common infection affecting the urinary system. It can develop in the ureters, bladder, kidney or urethra, though it most often occurs in the lower urinary tract in the form of a bladder infection. A UTI can be pretty uncomfortable and pose serious health concerns if not addressed immediately.
If you have a UTI, it’s essential to seek medical attention at the onset of your symptoms to prevent the infection from spreading. Learn how long a UTI lasts below, what a UTI feels like, preventive tips and when to go to urgent care for a UTI.
UTIs are a common medical condition, accounting for over eight million doctor visits every year. Since some symptoms of a UTI might not be so apparent, it can be helpful to learn to identify the signs so you know if you have a UTI. This way, you can get treatment and start feeling better. Common symptoms of a UTI in the lower urinary tract include:
An upper UTI consists of an infection in the kidneys or ureter. It’s essential to seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these upper UTI warning signs:
UTIs happen when bacteria enter the urinary tract, causing them to multiply in the bladder. While the urinary tract is designed to prevent bacteria from entering, some people may have a higher risk of developing a UTI, rendering this defense ineffective.
Women are more likely to develop a UTI since their bladder is shorter and closer to the rectum, making it easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.
It’s helpful to understand the other various causes and risk factors of developing a UTI to determine the root cause of an infection and how to treat or prevent it. Common risk factors for a UTI include:
How long your UTI lasts will depend on how quickly you seek treatment. Even if you experience minor effects, it’s critical to seek medical care as soon as possible. If left untreated, your infection could worsen, cause complications or develop into a severe medical problem.
An untreated UTI can cause a narrowing urethra, sepsis, kidney damage and recurring infections. It’s essential to seek medical care immediately if you experience a high fever, back or side pain, nausea and vomiting, shaking or chills.
In most situations, physicians will treat a UTI with a short course of antibiotics. They’ll discuss your current symptoms, do a physical exam and order a urine test if needed. Health providers will usually recommend a three to five-day course of antibiotics for mild to moderate UTIs, while severe infections can require IV antibiotics or IV therapy. Men, pregnant women or those with severe symptoms might need a longer medicine course to treat the condition entirely.
While your UTI symptoms should improve within a few days of starting treatment, it’s crucial to continue the antibiotics as long as your physician prescribes the medicine. Even if your UTI symptoms are gone, it’s vital to continue your medication to prevent the UTI from returning. Completing your prescription will prevent any remaining bacteria from multiplying or becoming resistant to the antibiotics, which could do more harm.
Your urine will likely be sent to the lab for a culture and sensitivity test when you go to urgent care for a UTI. This way, providers can pinpoint the exact organism causing your infection and ensure they prescribed the proper antibiotic. Occasionally, they may need to switch your medication based on the results to help you receive the best possible treatment.
While antibiotics are crucial for treating a UTI, physicians might suggest over-the-counter pain medicine to reduce discomfort or painful symptoms. They’ll also recommend drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and feel your best. It’s essential to notify your medical provider if your symptoms worsen or don’t improve on antibiotics.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent future UTIs and reduce your risks of painful and uncomfortable symptoms:
It’s crucial for you to understand UTI symptoms and when to see a doctor. A UTI might be highly uncomfortable, but it can also present severe issues if left untreated. Seek medical care so you can prevent any complications and quickly get back to feeling better.
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