As you probably noticed yourself, urinary tract infections (UTI) resolve relatively fast once you start taking antibiotics. As the bacteria in the bladder are killed, within the first day of treatment you’ll notice a big improvement in terms of reduced pain and burning. For the bladder to fully recover it will take another 3-4 days after which you should no longer have significant symptoms.
To speed up the recovery process, you should drink plenty of water, as frequent urination helps to flush out any remaining bacteria. However, you should avoid liquids that can irritate the bladder, such as acidic drinks (incl. juices), caffeine, and alcohol. Just to be on the safe side, you may want to avoid these irritants for up to two weeks.
If you don’t notice any improvement at all during and/or immediately after the antibiotic treatment, talk to your doctor again and ask whether you should try a different antibiotic. There are roughly a dozen different antibiotics which are commonly used to treat a UTI although, several UTI-causing bacteria have in recent years become resistant to the most common antibiotics. Therefore, doctors may also obtain a test to determine which specific bacteria may be causing a UTI before or in addition to prescribing medication. This way the prescribed antibiotics are customized to effectively treat each individual UTI. The test is known a urine culture, and it is likely that if you have had a UTI, you have already had this test done.
It’s definitely important that you visit your doctor if a UTI fails to improve or worsens, as the infection may then travell up to the kidneys and cause a severe infection.
As mentioned, your bladder will take some time to recover. During this period, which can last for two weeks, you may still have mild symptoms. This includes the urge to pee. It’s no longer as intense as when you first had the UTI, but you’ll be going to the bathroom more often. This may be a good thing as frequent urination is your urinary tract’s way of cleaning and healing itself. Other mild symptoms that may occur include the following:
It’s not uncommon to have small amounts of blood in your urine (a condition called hematuria) during an ongoing UTI, as bladder inflammation can cause minor bleeding. Once the UTI is treated, the bladder walll heals and the bleeding stops. However, it is recommended to be cautious and repeat a urine test to make sure the blood is gone. This is to rule out more serious conditions that cause chronic hematuria, such as bladder cancer, stones or kidney diseases.
Unfortunately, they can be. This is because antibiotics don’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria. As they also kill good bacteria in the vagina and urinary tract, antibiotics clear space that can be colonized by yeast (candida albicans), which then causes that annoying itch known as a yeast infection. The candida fungus lives in every vagina, but good bacteria normally prevents it from mutiplying beyond a certain amount.
The same rationale applies to the risk of getting BV. The precise mechanism of infection behind BV is not fully understood, but it is attributed to an imbalance of bacteria: too many bad, and too few good ones.
The risk of getting one of these two conditions because of antibiotic use to treat a UTI is moderate and shouldn’t discourage you from UTI treatment. Antibiotics are the only medication that works for a UTI. Always remember that a UTI left untreated is a serious health risk.
Studies have also demonstarated a relationship between UTIs and BV. They can occur simultaneously and make each other more likely to occur. Which one comes first isn’t entirely clear yet, however, research clearly shows a correlation. One study, for example, looked at 500 pregnant women and found that almost 14% of women with BV also had a UTI, while only 6.6% of the women without BV had a UTI.
It is advisable to always practice good vaginal and sexual hygiene. Avoiding tight pants and underwear (especially in the summertime) can help prevent bacterial infections as can making sure to always stay well hydrated!
Reviewed by Dr Roy Kedem, MD
Information last reviewed 10/13/21