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When it comes to a UTI, the infection shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even though it’s a common problem, it’s still dangerous when not treated and can lead to complications that are fatal.

Like any other bacterial infection, a urinary tract infection requires treatment with antibiotics to clear up the bacteria causing the issue. Bacteria don’t disappear on their own, no matter what type of home remedies are used. Clearing up symptoms or easing them could be achieved, but to completely eradicate the infection, a patient needs to see the doctor.

What happens if a UTI goes untreated? Is sepsis really a threat if the infection isn’t properly handled?

The basics about a UTI

A urinary tract infection forms based on the presence and proliferation of bacteria in some part of the urinary tract, which consists of the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. The most common cause of a UTI is E. coli, the bacteria found in stool that can cause stomach issues and infections when contaminated chicken, beef, and pork are consumed.

E. coli is also present in human stool, and this can contaminate the urethra under a number of circumstances. When the bacteria enters the urethra, it can settle in or climb to the bladder, the most common location for a UTI. However, bacteria can also contaminate the ureters and kidneys, causing more serious symptoms and complications. An upper UTI like this is extremely serious and should be treated immediately.

A UTI is easily detected by its common symptoms

  • Urgent, sudden, and frequent urges to pee
  • Bloody, discolored, cloudy, or offensive smelling urine
  • Slow stream of urine or little production when attempting to urinate
  • Feeling as thought the bladder is never emptied
  • Pressure or pain in the back, sides, pelvis, or abdomen
  • Fever, low grade until reaching the kidneys and then much higher
  • Nausea and vomiting, typically once the infection reaches the kidneys

Potential damage to the kidneys

Getting a UTI diagnosed and treated in the early stages is essential to keeping the infection from reaching the kidneys. Why is it important to try to keep the kidneys safe? Frequent or recurring UTIs can lead to scarring on the kidneys that can’t be fixed and can impair the functionality of the kidneys. Because the organs have so much responsibility, kidney disease and kidney failure could be fatal. Some of the things controlled by the kidneys are:

  • Blood pressure. When the kidneys don’t function properly to clean the blood, this can lead to hypertension, which can be serious and cause other coronary and pulmonary issues.
  • Waste and water. The kidneys are the janitors of the body. They filter out excess water and all the waste that needs to be removed from the blood. Then, they use this to create the urine that is lodged in the bladder and then excreted through the urethra. When the kidneys are impaired, they don’t filter properly, which can lead to septicemia and further issues like sepsis.
  • Temperature. The kidneys are also tasked with regulating body temperature, and damage can make it impossible to maintain a normal temperature, causing chills or fever, or both.

Septicemia and sepsis

These are two different conditions, but they stem from the same problem and are steps in a very dangerous direction.

Having a UTI means that antibiotics are needed for treatment. If handled properly, they aren’t a big deal most of the time. It’s when the infection reaches the kidneys that things really start to go south. If this happens, the patient is at risk of this affecting the entire body.

First, the patient could experience septicemia. This is a condition in which the kidneys are unable to filter waste or infection back through the urinary tract. Instead, waste continues to build up in the blood, or even flow back from the kidneys. At the same time, the bacteria also escapes into the bloodstream. This creates a toxic environment, but it can still be treated with minimal effort, since it hasn’t caused the blood to become infected yet.

When this bacteria and extreme load of waste results in blood poisoning, the condition progresses into sepsis.

Early signs and symptoms of sepsis include:

  • Fever and chills, with a very low body temperature
  • Less urination than usual
  • Rapid pulse and breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Sepsis is serious and can lead to death if action is not taken immediately. When sepsis occurs, the chemicals in the bloodstream lead to a widespread inflammation throughout the body. This results in a number of other detrimental conditions.

  • Potential for blood clots, which reduce blood flow to limbs and internal organs
  • Deprivation of food and oxygen to cells, leading to organ failure
  • Drop in blood pressure so severe it is life threatening, known as septic shock
  • Septic shock creates conditions for the failure of multiple organs, including the lungs and liver, and can be fatal

Urinary tract infections: Avoiding complications

In order to avoid sepsis and septic shock, UTIs need to be treated in the early stages, keeping them from ever reaching the kidneys. In addition, preventing the development of a UTI can significantly improve outlook for the future.

Some ways to easily prevent urinary tract infections include:

  • Making frequent trips to the restroom rather than holding urine when the urge hits, and taking the time to completely empty the bladder
  • Proper hygiene, including avoiding scented vaginal deodorants, douches, and bubble baths, as well as wiping from front to back
  • Taking showers instead of baths to wash bacteria down the drain rather than sitting in it
  • Cleaning genitals before and after sex, as well as wearing a condom during sex and peeing immediately after intercourse
  • Drinking plenty of fluid, especially water, consuming at least six eight-ounce glasses per day to stay hydrated
  • Taking all antibiotics during a UTI, even if symptoms disappear, to assure all bacteria are killed and don’t flourish, causing a recurrence


When it comes to a UTI, the infection shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even though it’s a common problem, it’s still dangerous when not treated and can lead to complications that are fatal. Watching for symptoms and knowing the body well can help catch early signs of a problem, and seeing a physician at these first warnings can assure that there are treatment options to clear up the infection before it spreads.

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