We've saved a major topic for the last blog post in the Understanding UTIs series: antibiotic resistance.
A UTI can be caused by bacteria resistant to common antibiotics. This makes the UTI more difficult to treat and can lead to complications. Antibiotic resistance has been on the rise globally due to antibiotics being prescribed unnecessarily or inappropriately.
"Decades of mis-prescribing antibiotics for viral infections, using stronger antibiotics than needed, and taking antibiotics for too long has allowed bacteria to mutate so that some drugs, such as amoxicillin, can no longer kill off the bacteria that commonly cause UTIs," said Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, a Stanford researcher and primary care physician.
Antibiotic resistance can be a problem when some bacteria are able to continue growing and infect the body even after an individual takes antibiotics. The remaining bacteria are therefore less sensitive to available treatment options, making them harder to eliminate. As a patient, the best way to help combat this is to follow your physician's instructions on how often and how long to take antibiotics.
Both patients and providers need to stick to antibiotic guidelines
It's also critical for physicians to be careful when prescribing antibiotics.
One study found that in an emergency department, 63% of patients with UTIs were treated with antibiotics that did not follow UTI clinical guidelines. When guidelines for treating UTIs are not followed, this contributes to the increasing rates of antibiotic resistance. This practice creates an issue not just for individuals with UTIs, but also for individuals with any kind of bacterial infection that requires treatment.
Another study found that implementing an intervention to help physicians follow guidelines more closely improved UTI treatment. In the future, similar processes might be important to consider at more health care centers to help slow the growth of antibiotic resistance.
We hope that this blog series has helped you learn more about UTIs and connected you to some valuable resources.
What you need to know
Remember: If you have symptoms of a UTI such as painful, frequent or sudden urination, or pink and cloudy urine, please reach out to your health care provider.
You can take steps to prevent a UTI by staying hydrated, urinating every two to three hours, urinating before and after sexual intercourse, avoiding vaginal deodorants or douches and taking other steps.
Myths about UTIs abound: Don't be fooled. Stick with trustworthy sources of medical information, and check in with your health care provider if you have questions.
Don't hesitate to visit your health care provider, and be prepared for your visit before you go.
The good news is that most UTIs are relatively easy to eliminate. Read up on your treatment options.
Keep in mind that although women are most likely to get UTIs, men and children can also get these infections; and they are relatively common in older adults as well.
Thanks so much for reading! Be sure to share with friends and family to continue to empower others with accurate health information.
This is the final post in the series Understanding UTIs. The goal of this seven-part series is to provide easy-to-understand, scientifically grounded information about UTIs.
Joanna Langner is a graduate student in Community Health and Prevention Research at Stanford who is interested in health disparities and women's health. She wrote this series with the support of Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Program on Prevention Outcomes and Practices, and Kim Chiang, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine.
Photo by cottonbro