What Happens If A UTI Goes Untreated?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is anything but comfortable. UTIs can affect both men and women; roughly 60% of women and 12% of men are expected to develop this common infection at one point or another in their lives (via Urology Care Foundation). While the body works to keep urine as germ-free as possible, bacteria can sometimes make their way into the urinary tract through the urethra. When that bacteria reaches your bladder, you can develop a UTI.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of a UTI can include frequent urges to urinate, a burning sensation while peeing, pain, cramping, or blood in the urine. Children, women, and older adults are at higher risk for UTIs, as are people with a history of UTIs or those undergoing hormonal changes such as during pregnancy or menopause.

UTIs are typically treated through the use of antibiotics. However, it is important to be diligent and thorough in the completion of antibiotic treatment, as leaving a UTI untreated can result in more serious health complications.

An untreated UTI can be extremely dangerous

If a UTI is left untreated, the bacterial infection can continue to spread. Obstetrician-gynecologist Bilal Kaaki toldĀ UnityPoint Health, "If a bladder infection [UTI] goes untreated, it can become a kidney infection. A kidney infection is a much more serious infection, because the infection can travel to the blood stream, causing sepsis. Sepsis causes people to get very ill and can even be critical." For this reason, it's important not to assume that the infection will naturally go away on its own.

Because the urethra is in such close proximity to the rectum, hygiene is crucial to prevent the transmission of UTI-causing bacteria. Experts at the Cleveland Clinic suggest always wiping oneself with toilet paper from front to back, and keeping clothing and underwear dry. In addition, staying hydrated with plenty of water will allow your body to flush itself of any bacteria through routine urination.

It is also important to allow your body to do what it needs to do rather than develop the habit of holding in your pee. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as these can cause bladder irritation. Lastly, consult with your OB-GYN when it comes to birth control, as certain methods of birth control, like diaphragms, present a higher risk for UTIs than others (via Cleveland Clinic).