How Are Urinary Tract Infections Treated?

1 answer | Last updated: Aug 05, 2010
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How are urinary tract infections treated?

Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is a senior medical editor at and a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics. She also provides housecalls and geriatric consultations in San Francisco.

Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be treated with a course of oral antibiotics. Although younger women often are treated for just three days, older adults may be given seven to ten days' worth of antibiotics, depending on their medical condition. (With age may come a weaker immune system, multiple chronic illnesses, an overall frail state, or a more persistent type of infection.) If a person is very ill, hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics might be needed.

There is no single "right" antibiotic to treat a UTI. Which medication is given usually depends on a combination of local patterns of antibiotic resistance (some bacteria have become resistant to certain antibiotics) and the particulars of a person's medical condition. Because the results of a urine culture may not be immediately available, doctors sometimes make a best guess as to the appropriate antibiotic.

If the person doesn't seem to improve or if the culture results show the bacteria is resistant to the type of antibiotic prescribed, then the prescription might be changed. This is a common situation with UTI treatment, and it shouldn't make a caregiver worry or mistakenly fear that the person has some "superbug" that requires a different or stronger drug.