Why won't my UTI clear up with antibiotics?

Why won't my UTI clear up with antibiotics?
Published : Feb 03, 2024
Last Updated : Feb 06, 2024

Urinary tract infection(UTI) symptoms may linger in some cases, even after taking Antibiotics. Sometimes it may require a different type of treatment, or there can be another type of infection that causes your symptoms. 

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for treating people with urinary tract infections(UTIs). These drugs contain antibacterial properties, clear the infection, and effectively relieve the symptoms.

But sometimes, these antibiotics fail, and there can be several reasons behind them. You may notice that your UTI symptoms aren't going away after antibiotic treatment. Even in some cases, the symptoms keep worsening even if you start the treatment.

So for these choirs, This article will help you explore what might cause antibiotics to fail. And what to do if this happens when you have a UTI and antibiotics do not seem to work? 

Why UTI symptoms can linger after antibiotics

In a study published in 2019, UTI is one of the most common types of bacterial infection that is an outpatient infection in the United States. And medications like Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for most Urinary tract infections(UTIs).

During the treatment Doctor usually prescribes an antibiotic without performing a urine test. It is because almost 90% of UTI cases appear due to E. coli, a bacterium. But unfortunately, not every time UTI treatments respond as they're expected. The Antibiotics fail to show any improvement, or sometimes the symptoms keep worsening. Three primary reasons behind it may appear during such cases of UTI treatment.

In case you have an Urinary tract infection(UTI) due to an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria.

Another type of bacteria, fungi or virus is causing Urinary tract infection(UTI) in you.

Or you might be suffering from another condition with UTI-like symptoms.

Antibiotic resistance

When you have a UTI infection due to a bacteria stain with antibiotic resistance, your antibiotic will not work against it. The situation may appear when the bacteria evolve in response to frequent or constant use of antibiotics. 

A person with any underlying medical problems or chronic UTIs is more likely to have a risk for antibiotic resistance. 

Which UTI antibiotics are resistant?

Antibiotics that have high rates of antibiotic resistance while using them for UTIs include-

  • Amoxicillin and Ampicillin
  • Fluoroquinolone antibiotics(ciprofloxacin)
  • Penicillin class of antibiotics
  • Sulfonamides (sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim) 

Use of wrong antibiotics

The treatment prescribed without a urine culture may have a risk that antibiotics prescribed for the infection may not be the right one. 

It happens because the most commonly seen culprit for UTI is E.coli. But what if you have a UTI infection due to a less common bacteria strain, fungi, or a virus? During this situation, a urine culture may help to find the exact cause and helps suggest an accurate treatment. But when it is not performed, and urinalysis is not done properly, there can be chances of missing the right antibiotic for the treatment. Also, such practice can potentially cause antibiotic resistance during a UTI treatment. 

When It's Not Exactly a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

What if your UTI is another condition with the same symptoms as a UTI cause? During such conditions, it is obvious that the antibiotics you are taking would not work to treat your UTI. You may require accurate treatment for the condition from which you are suffering. Some of the conditions that may appear to cause the same symptoms as UTI are-

  • Kidney infection
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Acute cystitis
  • Chlamydia
  • Overactive bladder
  • Vaginitis
  • Gonorrhea
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Bladder cancer
  • Genital herpes
  • Prostate cancer

Chronic UTIs

A person who gets UTIs more often than others suffers from a chronic UTI problem. Such chronic infection can often return 3 to 4 times yearly despite effective antibiotic treatments.

And the problem appears where, there more often, a UTI recurs and is always treated, and at some point, it is more likely to develop antibiotic resistance. 

Some leading causes of chronic UTIs are

Anatomy: Females are more likely to have a UTI due to their shorter urethras than males. In contrast, some people may have problems due to the shape and function of the urinary tract, which easily acquires bacterial infection.

Menopause: During Menopause, there can be a decrease in the levels of estrogen. When there is a decrease in estrogen levels, it can cause thinning of vaginal tissue, and it may make it more vulnerable to infection. And, then the infection may spread to the urethra and urinary tract.

Sex- While having sexual intercourse, The bacteria may easily enter the urinary tract through the urethra. 

Genetics: Some studies suggest that certain people are born with cell receptors in the urinary tract. Due to these cell receptors, the bacteria may easily stick to the urinary tract and may lead to an infection. These receptors are usually transferred from the genetic link and occur in the families.

People who frequently recur UTIs are generally prescribed prophylactic antibiotics. And your doctor may prescribe them when you take low doses of antibiotics every day to prevent the risk of getting a UTI.

What’s next when UTI symptoms remain after antibiotics?

If your UTI isn't responding to antibiotic treatment, you may need a urine culture to find out which bacteria is causing the infection. If another type of bacteria, fungi or virus is responsible for UTI, your doctor may prescribe treatment.

Here are some lifestyle changes that would help you reduce the chances of getting a UTI. Also, they will help you to reduce the severity of the symptoms that a UTI may cause-

Change Hygiene routine: A few small hygiene changes may help you reduce the risk for UTIs. It includes practices like- do not hold in your urine, wiping front to back, and always peeing after you have sex. 

Drink more water: Water is quite essential for your urinary health. Drinking more water will also help flush bacteria from the urinary tract and reduce the risk of a UTI. 

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables: To support your immune system, you should eat plenty. Fruits and vegetables contain high levels of Vitamins C as it may help reduce the risk of UTI. 

Add more cranberry juice to your diet: Cranberries are commonly recommended for home treatment for a Urinary tract infection(UTI). Cranberry juice can lower the chances that bacteria will stick to the urinary tract, which will help reduce the chance of an infection. Also, garlic extract may potentially help in reducing the risk of UTI. 

Take a probiotic: Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus, may help you reduce the risk of a UTI. Plus, probiotics are known to restore the good bacteria in the body after taking an antibiotics treatment course. 

Note that these recommendations work best for UTIs, kidney and bladder infections. Also, these three medical conditions are treated similarly. So If you are getting UTI-like symptoms due to any other underlying condition, your treatment will likely differ. 

Final lines

Antibiotics for treating a urinary tract infection(UTI) do not always work as expected. The most common reasons behind it can be the improper use of the antibiotics, including inconsistent dosing or stopping the antibiotics too early. 

Also, there can be chances that you are infected with a strain of bacteria that got antibiotic resistant. While some people are more likely to secure UTI due to anatomical vulnerabilities or behaviours that may be more prone to re-expose to a UTI. 

 If you do not respond to antibiotics better, you discuss a doctor about it once you suspect this. Working with a doctor and getting the appropriate treatment for your infection is important. Take your antibiotics exactly as prescribed and take essential precautions during the treatment.