Antibiotics usually are the first line treatment for urinary tract infections. Which drugs are prescribed and for how long depend on your health condition and the type of bacteria found in your urine.
Drugs commonly recommended for simple UTIs include:
- Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, others)
- Fosfomycin (Monurol)
- Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Macrobid)
- Cephalexin (Keflex)
The group of antibiotic medicines known as fluoroquinolones — such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin) and others — isn't commonly recommended for simple UTIs, as the risks of these medicines generally outweigh the benefits for treating uncomplicated UTIs. In some cases, such as a complicated UTI or kidney infection, your doctor might prescribe a fluoroquinolone medicine if no other treatment options exist.
Often, symptoms clear up within a few days of treatment. But you may need to continue antibiotics for a week or more. Take the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed.
For an uncomplicated UTI that occurs when you're otherwise healthy, your doctor may recommend a shorter course of treatment, such as taking an antibiotic for one to three days. But whether this short course of treatment is enough to treat your infection depends on your particular symptoms and medical history.
Your doctor may also prescribe a pain medication (analgesic) that numbs your bladder and urethra to relieve burning while urinating, but pain usually is relieved soon after starting an antibiotic.
If you have frequent UTIs, your doctor may make certain treatment recommendations, such as:
- Low-dose antibiotics, initially for six months but sometimes longer
- Self-diagnosis and treatment, if you stay in touch with your doctor
- A single dose of antibiotic after sexual intercourse if your infections are related to sexual activity
- Vaginal estrogen therapy if you're postmenopausal
For a severe UTI, you may need treatment with intravenous antibiotics in a hospital.
Many people drink cranberry juice to prevent UTIs. There's some indication that cranberry products, in either juice or tablet form, may have infection-fighting properties. Researchers continue to study the ability of cranberry juice to prevent UTIs, but results are not conclusive.
If you enjoy drinking cranberry juice and feel it helps you prevent UTIs, there's little harm in it, but watch the calories. For most people, drinking cranberry juice is safe, but some people report an upset stomach or diarrhea.
However, don't drink cranberry juice if you're taking blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin.
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