How quickly do antibiotics kick in and how can I support them?
As you probably noticed yourself, urinary tract infections (UTI) get better 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 strong symptoms.
To speed up the recovery process, you should drink plenty of water, as frequent urination helps to flush out any remaining bad bacteria. But stay away from liquids that can irritate the bladder tissue, such as acid 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.
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If you don’t notice any improvement at all during and/or immediately after the antibiotic treatment, go see your doctor again and ask whether you should try a different antibiotic medication. There roughly are a dozen different antibiotics that can treat UTI, several UTI-causing bacteria strains in recent years have become resistant against the most common antibiotics. Therefore, doctors nowadays first test the bacteria that caused a patient’s UTI before they prescribe medications. This way the prescribed antibiotics are customized to effectively treat each individual UTI. You very likely also had such an antibiotic sensitivity test done, but on rare occasions it could still be that the prescribed antibiotic is working well.
It’s definitely important that you visit your doctor if the UTI doesn’t show signs of improving or even worsens, as an untreated UTI runs the risk of causing kidney infections and you also may be suffering from something else that hasn’t been diagnosed yet.
Can some UTI symptoms continue after the antibiotics treatment?
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 more often to the bathroom than usual. In a sense, it’s a good thing. Frequent urination is your urinary tract’s way of cleaning and healing itself. Other mild symptoms that may occur, are the following:
- Your bladder may feel a little sensitive to sour juices, alcohol or coffee (so, avoid them altogether!)
- When you hold your pee for too long or don’t forget to drink enough, your bladder will feel like having a UTI all over again. What happens is that your bladder and urethra feel irritate by too concentrated urine
- Cloudy, dark-colored urine for up to 5-7 days
- White blood cells may still be in your urine (which you can’t with the naked eye but it will show in urine tests)
What to look for if I had blood in the urine during my UTI?
It’s not uncommon to have small amounts of blood in your pee (a condition called hematuria) during an ongoing UTI, as bladder inflammation can cause minor bleeding. Once the UTI is treated, these internal wounds heal and the bleeding stops. However, it’s recommended to be cautious and do another 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 or kidney issues.
Are vaginal yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV) side effects of antibiotics?
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 the yeast fungus (candida albicans), which then causes that annoying itch known as a yeast infection. The candida fungus lives in every vagina, but the good bacteria normally preventing it from increasing beyond a certain amount.
The same rationale applies to the risk of getting BV. The precise mechanisms behind BV aren’t fully understood, but it’s an imbalance of bacteria: too many bad, and too few good ones.
Now, the risk of getting one of these two conditions because of antibiotic use to treat UTI is moderate and shouldn’t discourage you from UTI treatment. Antibiotics are the only medication that works for UTI and always remember that a UTI left untreated is a serious health risk.
Studies also have shown that there’s some sort of relationship between UTI and BV. They can occur simultaneously and make each other more likely to occur. Which one comes first isn’t entirely clear yet — it’s sort of a chicken-egg problem. 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 UTI, while only 6.6% of the women with no BV had UTI.
Therefore, it’s extremely important to always practice good vaginal and sex hygiene and avoid tight pants and underwear (especially in the summertime) to prevent any bacterial infections from happening in the first place. Make sure to also always stay hydrated!
- Pujades-Rodriguez, Mar, et al. “Lower Urinary Tract Infections: Management, Outcomes and Risk Factors for Antibiotic Re-Prescription in Primary Care.” EClinicalMedicine, vol. 14, Sept. 2019, pp. 23–31, www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(19)30120-8/fulltext, 10.1016/j.eclinm.2019.07.012. Accessed 11 Fe. 2020.
- Storme, Oscar, et al. “Risk Factors and Predisposing Conditions for Urinary Tract Infection.” Therapeutic Advances in Urology, vol. 11, Jan. 2019, p. 175628721881438, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6502981/, 10.1177/1756287218814382. Accessed 11 Feb. 2020.
- Sumati, AH, and NK Saritha. “Association of Urinary Tract Infection in Women with Bacterial Vaginosis.” Journal of Global Infectious Diseases, vol. 1, no. 2, 2009, p. 151, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2840952/, 10.4103/0974-777x.56254. Accessed 11 Feb. 2020.