Antibiotics do not cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). However, research suggests there may be a link between prior use of antibiotics and a person developing an antibiotic-resistant UTI.

A UTI may occur when bacteria enter and grow inside the urinary tract. These infections can affect anywhere along the urinary tract, including the ureters, bladder, urethra, and kidneys.

Antibiotics are medications that doctors often prescribe to treat bacterial infections like UTIs.

This article explores the link between antibiotics and UTI, including the role these medications play in treating UTI. It also discusses UTI symptoms, possible causes, and how a person may prevent UTI.

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.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the treatment for UTI is antibiotics.

People need to ensure they take antibiotics according to their doctor’s instructions. Once a person starts the antibiotics, they may begin to feel better before they finish the full course of medication.

However, individuals should make sure they finish the full course of antibiotics, even if their symptoms appear to have eased before then.

Finishing the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by a doctor helps prevent antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AMR happens when bacteria and other microorganisms no longer respond to medications, such as antibiotics.

While AMR occurs naturally, overuse and misuse of medications like antibiotics speed up its emergence and spread.

When a UTI results from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it can be very difficult to treat. A person may require stronger treatment and a longer recovery time.

Although antibiotics are the main form of treatment for UTI, there may be a link between prior use of antibiotics and a person developing antibiotic-resistant UTI.

Research cited in a review from 2022 suggests that if a person frequently takes antibiotics or has finished a course within the last 3 months, the risk of developing a UTI from antibiotic-resistant pathogens may increase.

UTI can occur anywhere along the urinary tract, including the bladder and kidneys. A kidney infection may be more serious and requires urgent medical attention.

Bladder UTI

Symptoms of a bladder infection can include:

  • feeling the urge to urinate despite the bladder being empty
  • urinating frequently
  • pain or a burning sensation when urinating
  • passing bloody urine
  • a cramping sensation in the lower abdomen or groin area

Kidney UTI

Symptoms of a kidney infection can include:

These symptoms may vary depending on a person’s age.

For example, if a person with a kidney infection is over the age of 65 years, they may only experience confusion, disorientation, or muddled speech. UTI is also one of the most common causes of sepsis in older adults, according to older research cited in a 2016 study.

Children under 2 years old with a kidney infection may only have a high fever.

According to the CDC, UTIs are more common in females. This may be due to their urethras being shorter and nearer to the rectum, which may allow bacteria to enter the urinary tract more easily.

Kidney infections typically begin in the bladder and travel up into the kidneys through the urinary tract.

Causes and risk factors of UTI can include:

  • being sexually active
  • experiencing changes in the bacteria of the vagina due to menopause or the use of spermicides
  • being pregnant
  • having had a UTI previously
  • not practicing appropriate hygiene
  • being an older adult or a young child
  • not emptying the bladder fully
  • having functional or structural conditions within the urinary tract, such as an enlarged prostate

Several ways a person may be able to reduce the risk of developing a UTI can include:

  • practicing appropriate hygiene, such as wiping from front to back for females
  • urinating directly after sexual activity
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • minimizing douching, powders, or sprays, in the genital area
  • taking showers instead of baths
  • avoiding tight-fitting clothing
  • wearing cotton underwear

A UTI is a bacterial infection that can occur when bacteria enter and grow in any part of the urinary tract. This can include the bladder, kidneys, and urethra.

The treatment a doctor will prescribe for UTI is typically antibiotics. However, research indicates there may be a link between prior use of antibiotics and an increased risk of developing antibiotic-resistant UTIs.

Symptoms of UTI can include a burning sensation when urinating, frequent urination, and feeling the urge to urinate despite the bladder being empty.

Risk factors for UTI can include being an older adult or young child, being pregnant, and being sexually active.

Several ways a person may help prevent UTI include drinking plenty of fluids, practicing hygiene, and taking showers instead of baths.