Treatment of UTI (Urinary Tract Infections)

If you have a UTI you may be prescribed an antibiotic before the test results are available. It may later turn out that the bacterium was resistant to the chosen antibiotic, but at the start of treatment you have to rely on the doctor's 'best guess' as to which antibiotic will work.


Antibiotics

Several different classes of antibiotic are available. Some work by killing bacteria (for example, by puncturing their cell walls) and others work by stopping bacteria from multiplying so the body's immune system can overpower them.

An uncomplicated UTI should get better with a very short course of antibiotics - two days at most. If it doesn't, the possibilities are a wrong diagnosis, a complication or the bacteria being resistant to the chosen antibiotic.

Sometimes, surprisingly, bacteria are still destroyed by an antibiotic to which laboratory tests suggest it is resistant. This may be because large doses of an antibiotic can sometimes overcome the bacterium's resistance and kill it anyway.

Drinking

It is important not just to rely on the antibiotic, but also to make sure that you increase your urine production to flush out the bacteria. You should increase your fluid intake and urinate frequently. By drinking more water, your urine will be weaker and less irritant.

Discomfort and burning can also be reduced by making your urine more alkaline. Several commercial powders are available to reduce the acidity of urine, e.g. Cymalon.

Drinking cranberry juice has been recommended for both the treatment and prevention of UTIs. A substance in the husk of the berries is thought to be the helpful agent. It interferes with E. coli sticking to the urethral and bladder walls, thus helping urine to wash it out.

Even if the bacterium in your urine is not E. coli, cranberry juice is a palatable form in which to take the necessary volume of fluid. It may well be effective and it does no harm.

UTI Treatment Complications

A bad UTI infection of your bladder can spread up one or other of your ureters into a kidney, causing a severe kidney infection known as pyelonephritis. This is especially likely to happen if:

• your ureter is dilated (more open - as naturally occurs in pregnancy)

• the urine flow down your ureter is slow

• you have some anatomical abnormality (such as an extra ureter), which encourages pooling of infected urine.

Sexual Partner

UTIs are not passed on sexually and there is no need for your sexual partner to worry. The only sexual link is that UTIs occur more frequently after intercourse. This is because bacteria are pushed into your bladder as a result of sex.

Recurrent UTIs?

Repeated infections, or recurrences, may be related to one or other of the abnormalities mentioned above. If you have recurrent UTIs you should have tests for these abnormalities.

These include careful urine testing and ultrasound (or an X-ray) of the urinary tract. Often, however, nothing abnormal is found.