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Antibiotics are generally the most effective treatment for urinary tract infections (UTIs). Understanding antibiotics for UTIs can help you get the most out of the medication your doctor prescribes.

Antibiotics can reduce your risk of complications

Trying a wait-and-see approach with a UTI can lead to health complications. Left untreated, a UTI in your bladder (the organ that stores your urine) or urethra (the tube that shuttles urine out of your body) can develop into an infection in your kidneys (the organs that filter waste out of your blood and produce urine). A kidney infection is a more serious type of UTI. It can result in permanent organ damage or lead to a potentially fatal blood infection.

Antibiotics help your immune system fight off the bacteria responsible for a UTI and can greatly reduce the risk of your minor UTI becoming a much more serious kidney infection. The sooner you start taking an antibiotic, the lower the likelihood of complications.

Not all antibiotics work for all UTIs

All antibiotics are capable of fighting certain strains of bacteria. Escherichia coli (E. coli) strains are responsible for 90 percent of UTIs, but other bacteria can also cause them. To be effective, the antibiotic you take must be suited to treating the specific type of bacteria involved. This means you shouldn’t try to treat a UTI with someone else’s antibiotics or those you received for another infection.

Often, doctors will initially prescribe an antibiotic that fights E. coli to promptly begin treatment and then order a urine bacterial culture to determine what type of bacteria is actually in place. If the culture finds that a different bacteria caused the infection, your doctor may need to change the antibiotic.

Some antibiotics commonly prescribed for UTIs include:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Cephalosporins like cephalexin (Keflex)
  • Doxycycline
  • Fosfomycin (Monurol)
  • Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Macrobid)
  • Quinolones like ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
  • Sulfonamides (sulfa drugs)
  • Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim)

You may feel better before you are cured

Often, UTI symptoms go away within 24 to 48 hours of starting an antibiotic, but that doesn’t mean that the infection is completely gone. As your immune system starts to fight the bacteria with the help of the medication, inflammation in your urinary tract eases, so your symptoms may resolve before the infection is cured. That’s why it’s important to take all of the antibiotics prescribed by your primary care provider.

Antibiotic dosing instructions matter

Don’t disregard the instructions for taking your antibiotic. The timing of doses and whether you take it with or without food can impact the effectiveness of the medication. If you’re unsure when or how to take your medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Side effects usually aren’t serious, but they’re possible

Like all drugs, antibiotics have the potential to cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea and yeast infections. Most side effects from antibiotics are mild and, while inconvenient, are not life threatening. If you develop symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as swelling of your face or shortness of breath, seek emergency medical care. Otherwise, you can report any side effects that are interfering with your daily life to your doctor for advice.

How Forward makes UTI treatment easier

Getting treatment for a UTI is simple with Forward as your primary care provider. You can easily schedule an in-person or virtual visit and have your prescription delivered to your door, so you won’t need to visit a pharmacy to pick up your antibiotic. As part of our one-on-one, personalized care for urinary tract infections, we will discuss how to take the medication and explain how you can best deal with any side effects that may arise. We also focus on prevention and can recommend changes to your lifestyle and habits to help you avoid future infections.

No long waits. One flat fee. No copays — ever.

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