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For those who suffer complicated UTIs or frequent infections, there are plenty of ways to help reduce the chances of developing an infection as frequently.

A urinary tract infection can leave patients feeling drained and unwell, with even just the pain and burning sensation weighing down and causing fatigue. With a complicated UTI, the additional symptoms and difficulties faced can really affect everyday life. Many times, a complicated UTI goes beyond the typical bladder infection and enters the kidneys, meaning that it’s even more important to see a doctor and get the antibiotics required to kill the infection.

What antibiotics are most commonly used to treat complicated UTIs and kidney infections?

What is a UTI?

A UTI, or urinary tract infection, is caused by bacteria that infect either the bladder or the urinary tract, and sometimes, the kidneys. Typically, receiving treatment early in the infection can prevent it from spreading to the kidneys, which can also stop additional problems from occurring.

The typical symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Urgency to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Fever
  • Painful urination (dysuria)
  • Inability to empty the bladder
  • Flank or lower back pain
  • Pain in the lower abdomen

However, in a complicated UTI, a patient may or may not experience these symptoms.

What is a complicated UTI?

A complicated UTI is not simply a general infection of the urinary tract. It’s associated with a particular underlying condition or circumstance, including diseases or functional abnormalities. This makes it more complicated to treat the UTI. In order for a UTI to be considered “complicated”, it has to meet two criteria.
  1. The patient must have a positive urine culture showing an infection exists, and
  2. One or more of the following must be true:
    1. The patient has some form of indwelling catheter or uses intermittent bladder catheterization
    2. Upon voiding the contents of the bladder, at least 100mL of residual urine remains
    3. The patient has some form of obstruction, such as stones or a tumor, that prevent normal function of the urinary tract
    4. The patient has suffered injury to the lining of the renal pelvis, the ureters, and the urinary bladder through chemotherapy or radiation
    5. The urinary tract has been modified in some way
    6. The patient suffers from abnormal flow of urine back into the bladder (Vesicoureteral reflux)
    7. The UTI is peri- or post-operative
    8. The patient has an underlying condition, including diabetes mellitus, transplant, renal insufficiency, or immunodeficiency

When a complicated UTI occurs, there is a greater chance of the infection entering the kidneys, and there is an increased risk of typical treatments and therapies failing to cure the infection.

Diagnosing a kidney infection

There are several ways a doctor can test to see if a complicated UTI has progressed into a kidney infection. Often, the same urine sample provided to test for the UTI will also give information regarding the likelihood of a kidney infection. Often, aside from finding bacteria, in the case that kidneys are involved, the physician will find that there is blood and/or pus in the urine.

The physician could also order a blood test, which can determine if there are bacteria and other substances in the body that point to the possibility of a kidney infection. In addition, imaging tests, such as CT scans, ultrasounds, and certain types of x-rays are administered to come to a conclusion regarding the possibility of a kidney infection.

Treating a UTI

For a simple UTI, there are plenty of antibiotics that can get the job done, and these are typically the first line of defense to get rid of the infection. Some of the more commonly prescribed drugs a doctor will use are Bactrim (trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole), Keflex (cephalexin), and Monurol (Fosfomycin).

However, there are some other, stronger antibiotics that are often saved for treatment of a complicated UTI, as they have a number of risks that make them less worthwhile for something simple and easy to destroy. These drugs, called fluoroquinolones, include Levaquin (levofloxacin) and Cipro (ciprofloxacin).

How long does treatment last?

Because a UTI can occur based on various circumstances and may arise from a number of different bacteria, it’s almost impossible to know exactly how long it will take for the symptoms to clear up and the infection to go away. However, most patients with a simple UTI will experience relief within a few days. In some cases, with a minor infection, the doctor may only prescribe a short three to five day cycle of antibiotics.

When a patient suffers from a recurring or frequent UTI issue, a long term, low dose antibiotic may be prescribed, with directions to continue taking the medication for up to six months. In severe cases, it’s essential to get immediate treatment, and checking into the emergency room will likely result in a round of intravenous antibiotics to treat the issue.

What are the complications of a kidney infection?

If a kidney infection isn’t treated, there could be severe consequences, leading to lifelong issues. For example, the kidneys could suffer from scarring, which results in kidney disease, high blood pressure, and even renal failure. Additionally, blood poisoning, or septicemia, could occur due to reduced kidney functionality and waste being released into the blood. Pregnant women with kidney infections run a risk of having low weight babies and other complications.

Conclusion

Getting to a doctor when the first symptoms of a UTI appear could reduce the likelihood of it progressing into a kidney infection. And for those who suffer complicated UTIs or frequent infections, there are plenty of ways to help reduce the chances of developing an infection as frequently.

Avoid waiting to urinate when the urge occurs, and drink plenty of fluids, especially water. When urinating, wiping well, and performing the act from front to back, can help reduce the chance of a UTI. In addition, urinating immediately after sexual intercourse can lower the chance of getting a UTI. People with major risk factors should regularly consult their doctors with any sign or symptom that a UTI could be forming, especially if they already have reduced kidney functionality or other problems with the bladder or urinary tract.

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