Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections, and treatment is often with antibiotics. Nitrofurantoin (Macrobid) is often the first choice, but there are other options.
UTIs can affect the kidneys, the bladder, and the tubes that run between them.
They are among the
Because a UTI is usually a bacterial infection, a doctor will
In this article, we will discuss suitable medications for treating UTIs, as well as other treatments and remedies to help relieve symptoms.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
A UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary tract. The urinary tract is the body’s drainage system for removing urine. It
- The kidneys: organs that filter waste from the blood and produce 1–2 quarts of urine per day
- The ureters: the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder
- The bladder: the organ that stores urine
- The urethra: a tube at the bottom of the bladder that allows urine to exit the body
Most UTIs occur as a result of bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli). However, other types of pathogens, such as viruses and fungi, can also cause UTIs.
A UTI may occur when a pathogen enters the urethra and infects any part of the urinary tract. The infection can irritate the lining of the urinary tract, leading to symptoms
- persistent urge to urinate despite having an empty bladder
- frequent urination
- burning or pain when urinating
- strong-smelling urine
- pain or cramping in the pelvic area
- cloudy or bloody urine
UTIs that affect the kidneys (pyelonephritis) may cause:
- lower back or side pain
- nausea or vomiting
A UTI that affects the urethra is known as urethritis, and one that affects the bladder is known as cystitis. Health experts refer to UTIs affecting these parts of the urinary tract as lower UTIs, and they refer to infections of the kidneys or ureters as upper UTIs.
Doctors can classify UTIs as either simple or complicated. Simple UTIs
Doctors may prescribe different antibiotics depending on whether the UTI is simple or complicated.
The type of antibiotic, the dose, and the length of treatment a doctor prescribes will depend on a person’s health status and the bacteria found in the urine culture. For example, treatment for complicated UTIs may take 7–14 days and require broad-spectrum intravenous antibiotics as well as hospitalization.
Most doctors can begin treating an uncomplicated UTI without any diagnostic test other than a urinalysis. They often order a urine culture for complicated UTIs or when initial treatment fails.
Doctors may prescribe the following first-line antibiotics for uncomplicated UTIs:
This antibiotic is often the
This treatment is a combination of two antibiotics. Combining these two antibiotics helps make the treatment more effective, as they work synergistically. It is very affordable and is used to treat
Fosfomycin is a potentially safe and valuable option for treating uncomplicated UTIs in females. However, a 2018 study suggests that nitrofurantoin may be
Second-line antibiotics may include:
Amoxicillin, cefdinir, cefpodoxime-proxetil, and cefaclor are in this group. These medications have lower clinical and bacterial cure rates than first-line antibiotics.
This group can include:
- ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
- moxifloxacin (Avelox)
- gemifloxacin (Factive)
- levofloxacin (Levaquin)
- norfloxacin (Noroxin)
- ofloxacin (Floxin)
- lomefloxacin (Maxaquin)
Aside from antibiotics, doctors may recommend the following treatment options:
Antiviral or antifungal medications
If a person’s UTI is not the result of a bacterial infection, a doctor will not prescribe antibiotics. Instead, they will prescribe medications that are effective against the type of pathogen that is causing the infection.
For example, they will use antivirals to treat UTIs that occur as a result of viruses and antifungals to treat UTIs resulting from fungal infections.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medications
A doctor may suggest OTC medications to help relieve UTI symptoms. For example, a doctor may recommend
Click here to learn more about relieving UTI discomfort at night.
Plenty of water
Drinking a lot of fluids and urinating often
Applying heating pads to the abdomen or back can help manage bladder or kidney pain.
There is conflicting evidence on the benefits of cranberry juice in treating UTIs. However, it may help
A 2021 study notes that prescribed vaginal estrogen may prevent UTIs in postmenopausal women with an active diagnosis of recurrent UTIs.
Herbal products and dietary supplements
Research has not confirmed the effectiveness of herbal remedies for UTIs, and the FDA does not regulate herbal remedies. However, a 2021 study suggests that herbal medicines could be effective at the first sign of infection and help prevent the infection from spreading in the short term.
People should always check with their doctor before using OTC herbal and dietary supplements.
Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about medication for UTIs.
Can a person get rid of a UTI without antibiotics?
In some cases, the body can resolve mild, uncomplicated UTIs without antibiotics. Research suggests that
However, not receiving treatment for a UTI does have some risks. As such, older adults, pregnant people, and those with underlying conditions should not try to treat their UTIs without antibiotics.
Will amoxicillin treat a UTI?
Amoxicillin is an antibiotic that doctors commonly prescribe to treat a range of bacterial infections. As such, a doctor may consider prescribing it to treat a UTI. They may use it as a second-line treatment option for UTIs.
How long does a UTI last without antibiotics?
The duration of a UTI will vary from person to person. It is possible for an untreated UTI to clear up in roughly 1 week. However, with treatment, a simple UTI is likely to resolve within days.
The best medication for a UTI depends on factors such as symptom severity, health status, medical history, and the pathogen causing the UTI.
Because bacteria are the cause of most UTIs, a doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics. In such cases, a person should take the drug as the doctor prescribes and should finish the full course of medication even if they begin to feel better.
Stopping abruptly may prevent the drug from killing all the bacteria in the urinary tract or may cause these bacteria to become resistant to the drugs.