A urinary tract infection (UTI) can be annoying, bothersome and often painful for several days.
It may seem to last an eternity, with a constant feeling that you have to pee and a burning sensation when you do. But if your symptoms are actually dragging on for longer than you expected, you may be wondering how long does a UTI last?
Let’s look at this condition that affects women more often than men, and can range from minor to serious.
What is a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)?
Your urinary system consists of your kidneys, bladder, urethra and ureters. A UTI is when any part of that urinary system becomes infected.1 Most UTIs involve the bladder (also known as cystitis) or urethra (also known as urethritis), the lower part of your urinary tract.1
How Long Does a UTI Last?
Most UTIs last about a week, but there are factors that can impact your conditions, and when you’ll feel better and be bacteria free.4
For instance, an uncomplicated UTI, which is by far the most common, typically takes about three to seven days to fight off, even on your own without treatment.4
A complicated UTI can last a couple of weeks. A complicated UTI can occur if you’re pregnant or post-menopausal, if the bacteria is resistant to drug treatment, if you have something abnormal in your urinary tract, such as kidney stones, or if you have a catheter or other medical device. Those with a chronic condition like diabetes or a compromised immune system may also end up with a complicated UTI.4
There are also those women who suffer from recurrent UTIs, which is defined as two or more infections in six months, or three or more infections in 12 months.2 Those can include a persistent UTI, caused by the same bacteria, or a reinfection with either a reintroduction of bacteria or different bacteria being introduced into the urinary tract.2
The infection most commonly occurs when bacteria moves up into the bladder through the urethra. Some risk factors can promote or encourage the bacteria to ascend.2
One of the key factors is incorrect wiping after using the bathroom. Inadequate wiping techniques can introduce bacteria from the anal area to the urethra, allowing them to travel upwards. It is essential to maintain proper hygiene practices by wiping from front to back after urination or bowel movements to prevent the transfer of bacteria.
Apart from incorrect wiping, other factors can increase the risk of developing a UTI. Women are more susceptible to UTIs due to their shorter urethra, which makes it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. Sexual activity can also contribute to UTIs, as sexual intercourse can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract. Poor hygiene habits, such as infrequent bathing or wearing tight-fitting undergarments, can create an environment that promotes bacterial growth.
Certain medical conditions can also predispose women to UTIs. For instance, individuals with urinary tract abnormalities or blockages may have a higher risk of developing infections. Diabetes can weaken the immune system, making it less effective in fighting off bacterial invasions. In addition, the use of catheters or other medical devices that enter the urinary tract can introduce bacteria and increase the likelihood of UTIs.
Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms
Here are the most common symptoms of a UTI:1
- A strong, frequent urge to pee, and then passing small amounts
- A burning sensation when peeing
- Frequent urination
- Painful Urination
- Strong-smelling urine
- Cloudy urine
- Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored—a sign of blood in the urine
- Sometimes pain in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone
If you’ve experienced a UTI, you are certainly not alone. It’s expected that nearly one in every two women will experience at least one UTI in her lifetime, and nearly one in three women will have received antibiotic treatment for a UTI before the age of 24.3 Antibiotics are how UTIs are most commonly treated.
If you have the symptoms of a UTI, you should see a healthcare provider. That’s because there’s a risk of kidney infection, which can cause serious consequences.1 A bacterial infection that has moved into the upper urinary tract can result in back or side pain, high fever, shaking and chills, nausea and vomiting.1 It’s absolutely vital to see a doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any of these conditions to determine the type of infection you may have. UTI symptoms can also be similar to that of a bladder infection, so having a healthcare provider assess and properly diagnose your condition is critical to avoid complications.
How Long Does a UTI Last?
When treated with the correct antibiotics, the symptoms of a UTI usually begin to improve within 1 to 2 days. In most cases, a short course of antibiotics lasting 3 to 7 days is prescribed for uncomplicated UTIs, although the specific duration can depend on the type of antibiotic and the nature of the infection. For more severe infections, such as those involving the kidneys (pyelonephritis), the treatment might be extended up to 10 to 14 days.
How To Treat A UTI
That makes it important to seek a proper diagnosis and antibiotic treatment if you suspect you have a UTI. A healthcare provider will perform tests on a urine sample and analyze your urine cultures to identify the type of UTI and the type of antibiotic that will be most effective. Typical treatment for UTIs is prescribed antibiotics, typically for a 3-day course. With the correct antibiotcs, you should be feeling better in a matter of days. Treatment options for more severe UTI, such as one that spreads to the upper urinary tract and kidneys, could require intravenous antibiotics and oral antibiotics. Acute, complicated, or severe UTIs could require more lengthy treatments, even for several weeks.5
While it may be a popular suggestion online, cranberry juice is not a proven method for curing a UTI once you have an existing UTI. Cranberry products and cranberry supplements are better suited for prevention than treatment.
One way to ease the symptoms of a UTI while waiting for proper medical treatment is to drink plenty of water, and take over the counter pain relievers to ease any discomfort. A heating pad can also help sooth discomfort while waiting for the effects of antibiotics to take effect. Wearing loose fitting clothing and cotton underwear is a great way to reduce discomfort and help prevent future infections.
Use our Physician Finder to seek out a women’s medical professional if you suspect you have any type of UTI, to be sure you receive a proper diagnosis and receive treatment before it becomes serious.