How Long Can a UTI Go Untreated?

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Urinary tract infection (UTI) is common in men, women and children, and is usually not serious—unless it goes untreated. A UTI can be not only incredibly painful but potentially life threatening.

How UTI Occurs

Your urinary tract is made up of four parts: the kidneys, the bladder, tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder (ureters) and the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body). Urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria gets into the urethra and then multiplies in the urinary tract. Most urinary tract infections develop first in the lower urinary tract (the urethra and bladder), and can be easily treated with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.

If a UTI goes untreated, however, it may move to the upper urinary tract, including the kidneys, which is when more serious complications can take place.

Untreated Urinary Tract Infections: Symptoms and Effects

A urinary tract infection that has spread to the kidneys (also known as kidney infection, or pyelonephritis) can lead to reduced kidney function and even death.

Normal lower UTI symptoms include feeling the need to urinate frequently and burning or pain when urinating. Although the urge to urinate occurs frequently, only a few drops of urine may come out. Urine may also appear cloudy.

A lower UTI does not normally cause fever. When lower UTI symptoms are present along with a fever, vomiting or pain in the back or below this ribs, this may indicate that the infection has spread to the kidneys.

Kidney infections take several weeks of antibiotic treatment to cure, and may require a patient to be hospitalized.

Kidney infection brought on by an untreated UTI could also lead to permanent, and in some cases life-threatening, kidney damage. To avoid this possibility, contact a doctor at the onset of any UTI symptoms. A UTI that is treated early will probably not have lasting effects on your urinary tract or health.

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