Can UTI Symptoms Linger After Antibiotics?


Symptoms of a urinary tract infection don't always subside after a course of antibiotics. Some women require chronic UTI treatment for recurrent infections when an initial treatment fails to provide relief. In fact, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that 20% of young adult women have recurrent UTIs. If this experience sounds familiar, here's what you need to know about resolving a chronic UTI.

What Are the Symptoms of Chronic UTI?

When a UTI recurs, your discomfort may persist even after medical treatment. This condition is characterized by frequent and/or painful urination, blood in the urine and pain or pressure in the bladder and kidneys. You may leak a small amount of urine, have trouble urinating even if you feel the need to go or notice that your urine looks cloudy or has an unpleasant smell. Recurrent UTI is defined as three or more infections within six months.

Seek immediate medical attention if you develop a fever higher than 101°F, confusion or disorientation, fatigue, chills or uncontrolled nausea and vomiting. These signs indicate that the infection has spread to the kidneys, which causes serious illness. In women who are pregnant, chronic UTI can increase the risk of having a premature birth.

How Is Chronic UTI Treated?

If the normal one-week course of antibiotics doesn't treat your UTI symptoms, you may be prescribed low-dose antibiotics for several weeks to clear the infection. Many women are prone to UTI from intercourse. In this case, an antibiotic taken after sexual encounters may prevent recurrence. Women who began experiencing recurrent UTIs after menopause could benefit from low-dose estrogen therapy. Using a heating pad or taking over-the-counter pain medication can help control the discomfort associated with this type of infection.

Are UTIs Preventable?

Many women wonder how to prevent a UTI. Taking some basic steps to ward off UTIs can reduce their frequency. Some clinical research indicates the benefits of cranberry juice for UTI prevention, so consider adding a glass or two to your daily routine. Drinking lots of water helps flush infection-causing bacteria from your urinary tract, but limit bladder-irritating beverages like coffee, soda, alcohol and citrus drinks. When you are given antibiotics, take the entire prescription even if your symptoms go away. Discontinuing use early allows the bacteria to develop resistance to the drugs.

When you feel the urge to urinate, don't wait, especially after intercourse. Wipe front to back after using the bathroom to avoid introducing bacteria to the urethra. Stick to cotton underwear and steer clear of pants that fit too snugly at the crotch. Diaphragms and spermicide increase the risk for UTI, so think about switching to a different form of birth control. Scented products like soaps, bubble bath and vaginal lubricant can irritate the urethra and cause an infection.

UTIs that persist after treatment are painful as well as dangerous. If the infection spreads to the kidneys, these organs can be permanently damaged. Life-threatening complications such as sepsis and septicemia result if the infection enters the bloodstream or spreads to other organs and systems. Let your doctor know right away if you still have UTI symptoms after completing antibiotic treatment as directed.