Treatment Options for a Urinary Tract Infection

September 02,2021 |
Woman washing her hands.

Urinary tract infections are a general term used to describe an infection in any part of the urinary system. Most of the UTIs that men and women experience are localized in the lower urinary tract, which causes symptoms like burning during urination, urgency, and increased frequency. However, when left untreated these simple UTI infections can progress and spread into the bladder and kidneys. To avoid experiencing complications from this progression, seeking treatment is essential. For a better understanding of what to expect, here are some treatment options for a urinary tract infection.

Differentiating a Urinary Tract Infection from a Bladder or Kidney Infection

As mentioned, a urinary tract infection is used to describe a general infection that affects any part of the urinary tract. However, since there are several different parts of the urinary tract, infection localization can vary. If the infection spreads up to the bladder, this is referred to as cystitis. Cystitis overtakes the bladder and leads to inflammation, which can create long-term complications when left untreated. If this infection continues to spread, it can easily reach the kidneys. When a urinary tract infection reaches the kidneys, it’s referred to as pyelonephritis, which can create long lasting kidney problems and irreversible damage. Therefore, it’s essential that you diagnose and treat a urinary tract infection while it’s still localized to the urethra and early stages.

What to Expect During UTI Diagnostics?

Diagnosing a urinary tract infection is usually fairly simple. Oftentimes, a simple medical questionnaire and urinalysis is enough to get you started on treatment and relieve your symptoms. Here are the most common diagnostic tools for a UTI.

Medical Questionnaire

Your urologist will begin your exam by asking you several questions. These questions will revolve around your symptoms—onset, intensity, and frequency—and your medical history. This allows your doctor to assess the severity of your infection and better understand if you’re at risk for recurring UTIs. Be honest about your answers to ensure that you get the proper treatment.


A urinalysis is a routine test that analyzes a sample of your urine. It’s simple and can provide your doctor with a plethora of information regarding the chemical makeup of your urine. During this time, your doctor will examine your urine for white blood cells, red blood cells, and the presence of any bacteria. This allows them to determine whether or not an infection is present. You’ll need to provide a clean catch urine sample, which means that you’ll apply a safe antiseptic to your genital area before urinating.

Urine Culture

In some instances, your doctor may follow up your urine sample with a urine culture. A urine culture is when the urinary tract bacteria are grown in a lab to better understand the type of bacteria that’s present. This could be necessary when there is insufficient information or just as a confirmation. Regardless of the reason, a urine culture will ensure that you’re treated for the right type of bacteria.


Ultrasounds are used as diagnostic tools when a urinary tract infection isn’t responding to antibiotics or treatment. They’re also common in patients that experience recurring or chronic UTIs. This imaging test allows your doctor to look for signs of disease or injury that may be contributing to the frequency or severity of infection. It’s non-invasive and requires little to no preparation.


Another diagnostic tool for UTIs that are unresponsive to treatment is a cystoscopy. This test involves inserting a small instrument with a camera and light source into the urethra so that your doctor can examine your bladder from the inside.

CT Scan

For different angles of your urinary tract, a CT scan may be performed. This is more precise than X-rays and provides cross section images of the body for your doctor to examine intricately. If you need a CT scan, talk to your doctor about what you need to do to prepare.

Once you have the proper diagnosis and a better understanding of the type of bacteria that’s causing your urinary tract infection, you’ll be able to undergo more targeted, effective treatment. Always follow your doctor’s treatment plan and avoid relying on natural remedies as a cure. If bacteria are present, you’re going to need an antibiotic to eliminate them.

The Best Treatment Options for UTIs

Treatment options for urinary tract infections always include antibiotics. You cannot treat a UTI without eliminating the bacteria that’s present in your urinary tract. While there are hundreds of “natural” remedies online, you should not rely on these as primary treatment options. Without antibiotics, UTIs can spread to your bladder and kidney and cause long-term damages.

Treating Simple Infections

Simple urinary tract infections are those that are uncomplicated and respond to antibiotics quickly and without problems. There are several different drugs that doctors use to treat simple UTIs, some of which include Amoxicillin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, Fosfomycin, nitrofurantoin, cephalexin, ceftriaxone, and fluoroquinolones.

Amoxicillin is being phased out as a treatment for UTIs, as infections have become increasingly resistant to its bacteria-fighting properties. Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole is a commonly used drug combination while Fosfomycin is newer and only needs to be taken once. Nitrofurantoin is one of the most commonly used antibiotics used to treat UTIs—it’s prescribed as treatment for about 32% of the UTIs in the United States.

Fluoroquinolones aren’t as recommended for simple UTIs, since the side effects and medicinal risks outweigh those of a UTI. However, if your doctor prescribes them, you should take as advised to avoid kidney damage or infection.

Regardless of what you’re prescribed, make sure that you take the entire course of antibiotics. If you experience disrupting side effects, discontinue use and talk to your doctor immediately. The period of antibiotic use ranges based on the severity of the UTI and bacteria level present. You should begin to experience symptom relief within a day or so of beginning treatment.

As with any prescription medication, there are risks and side effects of each. Make sure that you go over any concerns and provide your doctor with a thorough medical history to ensure that you don’t experience an adverse reaction. If you do, discontinue use and talk to your doctor immediately.

Treating Frequent Infections

Some people unfortunately experience frequent or recurring UTIs. If you suffer from these, it’s important to work with your urologist to better understand the cause of the problem. Some treatment options for frequent urinary tract infections include low-dose antibiotics, self-diagnostic options, post-intercourse antibiotics, and vaginal estrogen therapy.

Low-dose antibiotics will require you to take a low dosage of doctor prescribed antibiotics for at least six months. Your doctor may have you continue to take these for longer if necessary. Self-diagnostic options are only permitted if you regularly communicate with your doctor. This will allow you to avoid having to schedule a doctor’s appointment every time you feel an infection coming on.

Single dose antibiotics are prescribed for those who experience UTIs related to sexual activity. Since sexual intercourse is directly related to UTIs, especially in women, this may be a good option to avoid full dosages later on. Talk to your doctor to learn more.

Treating a Severe Infection

Some UTIs progress into severe infections that don’t respond to oral antibiotics or treatment options. In these instances, you may need to be treated intravenously in the hospital.

Managing Pain or Discomfort

For those who experience particularly disrupting or painful symptoms with a UTI, discuss your options for pain management with your doctor. Some pain management options include phenazopyridine and analgesics to help you with relief until the treatment begins to work.

Home Remedy Options

To supplement your treatment, there are a few things you can do to ease your discomfort at home. These are not alternatives to antibiotics, but they can help you ease symptoms and expedite healing. Try to drink plenty of water to dilute your urine and flush out your urinary tract to decrease painful symptoms. During this time, you should also try to actively avoid anything that irritates your bladder like coffee, caffeine, alcohol, and citrus juices. This will help you avoid further aggregation of your bladder and can help reduce frequency and urgency.

While many urinary tract infections are easy to treat, they’re still frustrating to deal with, especially if you suffer from recurring UTIs. Regardless of if you get one UTI a year or one hundred, swift treatment is essential to avoiding potentially permanent complications. Seek treatment from your urologist at the first sign of infection and discuss your options for reducing recurring problems. If you need any educational support on urologic health, Byram Healthcare is here to help.