A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system, which includes the bladder, kidneys, and urethra. Approximately 10 in 25 women and 3 in 25 men will have a UTI at some point, making the condition quite common. Most UTIs can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor, but sometimes a hospital visit is needed. Knowing when a urinary tract infection is serious is important so people can seek urgent care at a hospital.
Gotta go, gotta go
Drinking lots of water and pregnancy are common causes of increased urination, but sometimes, when urgency arises, the true cause is a urinary tract infection. A UTI is an infection that causes inflammation in the lining of the urinary tract. The inflammation leads to symptoms such as abdominal pain, pressure, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, and frequent urination. Blood in the urine and pain while peeing can also occur. More severe symptoms of a UTI can include fever, chills, lower back pain, and vomiting.
Treating the infection
Although minor UTIs can go away without treatment, most require antibiotics. If a UTI is suspected, an individual should make an appointment to see a doctor. The healthcare provider can prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and may also recommend medication that can help with the symptoms of pain and urgency until the treatment kicks in. Drinking plenty of water will also be advised while treating the infection.
When is a hospital visit needed?
Although rare, some UTIs will require a visit to the hospital. This occurs most commonly when the infection starts to affect the kidneys. Symptoms of a kidney infection can appear over several days and slowly escalate in severity. Common symptoms include a high fever, chills, cloudiness or blood in the urine, back pain, and nausea or vomiting. When the kidneys are affected, prompt treatment is necessary to avoid outcomes like sepsis and kidney damage or failure.
People with more severe symptoms of a UTI who present to an emergency room will likely first have a urine analysis and culture done to confirm what specific type of bacteria is causing the infection. Like people treated at home, antibiotics will be used to treat the infection. However, patients with more severe UTIs who end up at the hospital usually receive targeted antibiotic treatment designed to best treat the specific bacteria present. The medication will be given intravenously (IV), and the doctor may also prescribe IV fluids simultaneously.
Although most UTIs resolve with proper antibiotic treatment, some can be life-threatening. If severe symptoms arise or the antibiotics do not work, a trip to the hospital may be necessary. Once there, IV treatment can help clear the infection and eliminate symptoms such as pain, urgency, and fever. When a UTI seems serious, don’t delay care.