A urinary tract infection 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?
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
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 Those include incorrectly wiping after going to the bathroom.
Here are the most common symptoms of a UTI:1
- A strong, persistent urge to pee, and then passing small amounts
- A burning sensation when peeing
- Strong-smelling urine
- Cloudy urine
- Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored—a sign of blood in the urine
- Sometimes pain, such as 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 doctor. That’s because there’s a risk of infection spreading to your kidneys, which can cause serious consequences.1 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.
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
See a Doctor
That makes it important to seek a proper diagnosis and treatment if you suspect you have a UTI. A healthcare provider will perform tests to identify the type of UTI, and then you may receive an antibiotic, typically for three days. A more severe UTI, such as one that spreads to the upper urinary tract and kidneys, could require intravenous antibiotics and oral antibiotics. Acute, complicated UTIs could require more lengthy treatments, even for several weeks.5
Use our Physician Finder to seek out a women’s health specialist if you suspect you have any type of UTI, to be sure you receive a proper diagnosis and receive treatment before it becomes serious.