UTI Pain: How to Treat it at Home
What is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a bacterial infection of the kidneys, bladder, ureters, or urethra. UTIs are very common, especially in women, who are more likely to develop them than men. Older adults are more vulnerable to infections of the bladder.
Symptoms of a UTI
- Painful urination
- More frequent urination
- A frequent urge to urinate
- Lower abdominal pain or pain just above the pubic bone
- Blood in the urine
- Foul-smelling urine
While the standard treatment for UTIs are antibiotics, home treatments, such as over-the-counter medications and drinking plenty of fluids, can help with the pain.
UTIs can progress to infections in the blood, known as sepsis, so don’t wait a long time to get treatment. —Dr. Jason Chandrapal
How a UTI is medically treated
Medicines doctors prescribe
The main type of medication to treat UTIs is an antibiotic, such as nitrofurantoin or bactrim, which kill the bacteria that’s causing the infection. They usually work quickly, but even if you start to feel better, you must finish the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from returning.
While most UTI symptoms go away with treatment, some may linger because it may take time for the bladder to return to normal even after getting rid of the infection.
Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen, can help treat lingering pain, frequency, and urgency.
How long treatment lasts
Antibiotic treatment usually lasts for 3 to 5 days, depending on which antibiotic you are prescribed. Pain medication should be taken only as needed.
Can UTIs be treated without antibiotics?
In general, it’s recommended that you see a doctor and be treated with antibiotics when you start feeling UTI symptoms. In some cases, your body might be able to fight it off without antibiotics, but that can be a very uncomfortable, time-consuming process. It can also become dangerous if it turns into a kidney infection.
Since the standard treatment for UTIs are antibiotics, let the doctor know if you have any allergies to medications. —Dr. Chandrapal
At-home remedies for UTI
1. Increased fluid intake
Drinking lots of water is one of the easiest things you can do to get relief from UTI symptoms, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine. By staying hydrated, you’re flushing away the bacteria by urinating more frequently. It’s best to drink water and not sugary drinks, such as soda.
2. Vitamin C supplements
Taking a vitamin C supplement may help prevent and treat UTIs by acidifying your urine, which may stop the growth of harmful bacteria. But there is not a lot of evidence supporting the effectiveness of vitamin C as a UTI treatment.
3. Cranberry juice
Drinking cranberry juice may also help prevent and treat UTIs by acidifying your urine, though the evidence is mixed. It also stops bacteria production by preventing the bacteria from sticking to the lining of your bladder. Look for cranberry juice without high sugar or try unsweetened cranberry juice.
Probiotics are known as the “good bacteria” that line your organs and form a protective barrier against bacteria that can cause infections like UTIs. Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt and kefir and are also available as supplements. Though the evidence is mixed, some studies show that it can help prevent and treat UTIs.
5. Natural supplements
Several natural supplements may help treat UTI symptoms, but it’s important to keep in mind that supplements aren’t well regulated and the concentration of the active ingredients may vary. Supplements that may help include:
- Cranberry extract, which is a pill form of cranberry juice and works in similar ways
- D-Mannose, a type of sugar found in cranberries that prevents bacteria from sticking to the lining of your bladder
- Garlic extract, which has been shown to have antibacterial properties and prevent UTIs
- Bearberry leaf (Uva ursi), which is available as an herbal tea or pill, and has antimicrobial properties that may help with UTI symptoms
These treatments may relieve pain in your lower abdomen and in the area just above your pubic bone. But there’s very little evidence that acupressure or acupuncture is effective for UTI pain, so it should only be used as a last resort.
Ask your doctor about UTI prevention strategies —Dr. Chandrapal
Home remedy myths to avoid
While baking soda neutralizes the acid in urine, which could prevent bacteria from spreading, there’s little proof that baking soda treats UTIs—and it may actually be harmful. A study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics found that some women who used baking soda were hospitalized for electrolyte imbalances, acid/base issues, and difficulty breathing.
Using soap to clean the vaginal area won’t help prevent or treat UTI symptoms. In fact, soap can be irritating and disrupt the good bacteria in the vagina that protects against more harmful, infectious bacteria. If you want to clean the groin area, wash the skin with a mild soap; but a deep clean within the vagina is not recommended.
Dr. Chandrapal is the current Interprofessional Advanced Clinical Simulation Fellow at the VA medical center in Durham, NC. Prior to his current position he was a urology resident at Duke University. Originally from Houston, TX he went to undergrad at the University of Texas in Austin, followed by a masters degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, and medical school at Texas Tech Health Science Center. He interested in adult learning, emotional intelligence, systems thinking, and biotechnology/innovation. In his free time he enjoys fly fishing and playing tennis.