When to See a Doctor for a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
September 14, 2022

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections that affect the urinary tract. Though they can be painful, most UTIs are not serious and can be easily treated with antibiotics. In order to obtain a prescription for antibiotics, you must first speak with a medical provider. Seeking treatment early will help to resolve your symptoms and prevent the infection from spreading. 

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When to See a Doctor for a UTI

UTIs require treatment with a prescription antibiotic medication, so it’s a good idea to speak with a medical provider when symptoms of a UTI arise. They can rule out other possible infections that can cause symptoms similar to that of a UTI. 

Causes of a UTI

In most cases, UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the urethra. There are several ways through which bacteria can enter the urethra, but sex is a common risk factor for UTIs. This is because the friction that occurs during sexual intercourse can promote bacterial migration in the urinary tract. Other risk factors for UTIs include:

  • Age: Older individuals can be more susceptible to UTIs because they’re more likely to have trouble emptying their bladder. Menopause can also increase the risk of developing a UTI.
  • Bowel movement habits: People with bowel incontinence or diarrhea are more likely to develop UTIs.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a UTI typically involve the urinary tract, but they can also affect the stomach and midsection. The most common signs of a UTI are:

  • Pain, discomfort, or a burning sensation while urinating
  • An intense, persistent, and frequent urge to urinate
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Cloud-colored urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Strong or unpleasant-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain (in people with vaginas)
  • Pain in the side, lower abdomen, or back
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever

Can a UTI Go Away Without Antibiotics?

Though some mild UTIs may go away on their own without antibiotic treatment, delaying treatment for your symptoms can allow the infection to spread. This can lead to more serious health concerns. If you have concerns about taking antibiotics, talk with your medical provider about your options. It’s also important to note that because of antibiotic resistance, some UTIs may not respond to antibiotic treatment. 

Medical Treatment for UTI

Antibiotics are the first-line treatment for UTIs. In most cases, your provider will prescribe a course of antibiotics for 3-7 days depending on your symptoms, previous infections, and other factors. Though you may feel better within 2-4 days, take the full course of antibiotics as directed by your provider.  

Risks of Untreated UTI

When diagnosed and treated, a UTI is not life-threatening. However, if left untreated, a UTI can spread to the kidneys, which is a more serious health condition and warrants immediate medical attention. When a UTI spreads to the kidneys, treatment may require intravenous antibiotics. 

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Prevention

There are several things you can do to help prevent a UTI. Common prevention strategies include:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Urinate regularly
  • Don’t apply douches, soaps, or other irritants to your genital area
  • Urinate before and after sexual activity
  • Wipe from front to back after a bowel movement
  • Wear cotton-based underwear

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable UTI treatment online with K Health? Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and is based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a UTI go away on its own?
In some cases, a mild UTI may go away on its own. However, if left untreated, a UTI can spread to the kidneys, which is a serious condition. If you’re experiencing consistent symptoms of a UTI, speak with a medical provider as soon as possible about your treatment options.
How long can a UTI go untreated?
How long a UTI can go untreated depends on the severity of your symptoms and medical history. However, it’s not a good idea to leave a UTI untreated without speaking with a medical provider.
What happens if a UTI goes untreated for a week?
Leaving a UTI untreated for a long period of time can increase the likelihood of the infection spreading to the kidneys, which is a more serious condition. Symptoms of a kidney infection include: upper back and side pain, high fever, chills or shaking, blood in urine, and muscle aches in the lower abdomen. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
Should I go to urgent care for a UTI?
Yes, you can go to an urgent care center for a UTI. Urgent care centers are well-equipped to offer testing, diagnosis, and treatment for a UTI.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.