September 13, 2021
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Mark Perlmutter, M.D. contributes to topics such as Cancer Care, Men's Health.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)—when bacteria gets into your urine and travels up to your bladder—are the source of 8.1 million visits to health care providers each year, according to the Urology Care Foundation. In fact, UTIs are so common that about 60 percent of women and 12 percent of men will have at least one UTI during their lifetime.
UTIs are common, but can they go away on their own, or do they always require medical attention and antibiotics? The answer isn’t so simple.
Urologist Mark Perlmutter, M.D., says a UTI can go away on its own, but not every type of UTI and not every time.
“Yes, a UTI could go away on its own, but some infections are different than others,” he says. “And if left untreated, it may linger longer.”
UTIs are classified into two main categories: uncomplicated, also known as cystitis; and complicated, which may be catheter-associated or happen during pregnancy. In most cases, UTIs are caused by E. coli bacteria normally found in the bowels.
When to Seek Care
In general, UTIs present with the following symptoms:
- Pain and burning during urination
- Frequently feeling like you need to urinate
- Frequently feeling like you need to urinate after you just did
- Urine that is cloudy
- Urine with a strong odor
- Pressure and cramping in the lower belly
- Feeling weak or shaky
The sooner you can address these symptoms, the more likely you’ll avoid letting a UTI develop into a kidney infection. Though some people have beaten uncomplicated UTIs with fluids and supplements, like cranberry pills, Dr. Perlmutter says it’s best to call your doctor, get a urine culture and, if deemed necessary by your doctor, start a round of antibiotics.
“There’s really no need to delay treatment since the majority of the time, fluids and antibiotics will easily knock out a UTI,” he says.
If a UTI is treated early, there will likely be no lasting effect on your urinary tract. However, UTIs can cause complications if not found and treated quickly.
You should immediately call your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms, as they could be signs of larger urinary tract problems:
- Blood in your urine
- Lower back pain
- Decreased urine production
How to Prevent a UTI
To prevent UTIs, stay hydrated, properly clean yourself after sexual activity, wipe from front to back (for women) and urinate when you feel the urge rather than holding it in for long periods.
“Cranberry tabs have been shown to guard against E. coli infection,” Dr. Perlmutter says. “And the more you can prevent a UTI, the better.”
So while it’s possible for a UTI to go away on its own, is it really worth waiting?
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source: Mark Perlmutter, M.D. To make an appointment with Dr. Perlmutter or a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Learn more about innovative care for urologic disorders and conditions
- Should a woman see a urologist?
- Losing weight may reduce urinary incontinence
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.