A doctor diagnoses a UTI by taking information from the patient regarding specific symptoms and the patient’s history. A urine test is necessary to diagnose it as well. Because UTIs are so rare in men, more diagnostic tests may be required for men suspected of having a UTI. Home dipstick tests are also available to diagnose UTI.
Uncomplicated UTIs are usually treated with antibacterial drugs for 3 to 7 days. The choice of drug and length of treatment depends on the patient's history and the urine tests that identify the offending bacteria. The sensitivity test is especially useful in helping the doctor select the most effective drug. The drugs most often used to treat routine, uncomplicated UTIs are trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, Cotrim), ciprofloxacin or norfloxacin, amoxicillin (Amoxil, Trimox, Wymox), and nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Furadantin). It is important to take the full course of treatment because symptoms may disappear before the infection is fully cleared.
Various drugs are available to relieve the pain of a UTI. A heating pad or a warm bath may also help. Most doctors suggest that drinking plenty of water helps cleanse the urinary tract of bacteria. For the time being, it is best to avoid coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods. In addition, one of the best things a smoker can do for his or her bladder is to quit smoking. Smoking is the major known cause of bladder cancer.
Recurrent Infections in Women
Women who have frequent recurrences may benefit from preventive therapy. About 4 out of 5 women who have a UTI get another in 18 months. Many women have them even more often. A woman who has frequent recurrences (three or more a year) should ask her doctor about one of the following treatment options:
- Take low doses of an antibiotic such as TMP/SMZ or nitrofurantoin daily for 6 months or longer. (If taken at bedtime, the drug remains in the bladder longer and may be more effective.) NIH-supported research at the University of Washington has shown this therapy to be effective without causing serious side effects.
- Take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual intercourse. Take a short course (1 or 2 days) of antibiotics when symptoms appear. Dipsticks that change color when an infection is present are now available without prescription.
Infections in Pregnancy
A pregnant woman who develops a UTI should be treated promptly to avoid premature delivery of her baby and other risks such as high blood pressure. Some antibiotics are not safe to take during pregnancy. In selecting the best treatments, doctors consider various factors such as the drug's effectiveness, the stage of pregnancy, the mother's health, and potential effects on the fetus.