Can Over-The-Counter UTI Medicine Cure a UTI?

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Over-the-counter UTI medicine

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common infections. While fungi, viruses, and parasites can all cause UTIs, these infections are typically caused by bacteria (usually E. coli). With this in mind, are antibiotics the only way to get rid of a bacterial UTI? What about over-the-counter UTI medicine? Can it cure a UTI as well? There are a lot of questions. Fortunately, we have answers. Read on to learn more about, UTIS, UTI treatments, and how to prevent them from occurring in the first place!

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What Are UTIs and What are the Symptoms?

UTI over-the-counter medicine

A UTI is an infection in any part of your urinary system. This includes your ureters, bladder, or kidneys.

As mentioned previously, UTIs are one of the most commonly occurring infections. According to the National Institutes of Health, "UTIs account for as many as 8.1 million visits to health care providers every year."

While both men and women can get them, women are at a much higher risk for UTIs. According to estimates by the American Urological Association and the NIH, in their lifetime, women have a 40% to 50% risk of contracting at least one UTI. The NIH explains that this is mostly due to women's shorter urethras which allow bacteria easier access to the bladder.

There are two general types of UTIs: lower UTIs and upper UTIs.

In lower UTIs, it's typically the bladder that becomes infected after bacteria travels up to it via the urethra. This type of infection is called cystitis which isn't usually life-threatening or serious-especially if it's caught and treated early.

However, if left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys. This is considered an upper urinary tract infection and is called pyelonephritis. This condition is much more serious, and, according to Harvard Medical School, it is potentially fatal.

According to American Urological Association, the usual symptoms of UTIs include:

  • Pain in stomach and pelvic region
  • Urinating more frequently but passing smaller amounts of urine
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Cloudy and/or strong-smelling urine

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, those with upper urinary tract infections can expect more severe symptoms than those of cystitis. Usually, people experience prolonged symptoms of lower UTIs. However, they may also experience an increased need to urinate at night, chills and fever that last beyond two days, vomiting and nausea, and pain along the back.

What Treatments are Available for UTIs?

UTI medicine over-the-counter vs prescription

Since bacteria is almost always the culprit for UTIs, physicians will usually prescribe antibiotics.

According to Mayoclinic, commonly prescribed antibiotics include:

  • Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole
  • Fosfomycin
  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Cephalexin
  • Ceftriaxone

Generally, these are short courses prescribed for uncomplicated UTIs. Symptoms begin to clear up within three days.

But what about over-the-counter UTI medicine? Are they effective at treating UTIs? More on that below.

Is Over-The-Counter UTI Medicine Effective at Treating UTIs?

Effective Over-the-counter UTI medicine

The short answer to this is no. Bacterial UTIs can only be treated with antibiotics. Over-the-counter UTI medicine is largely ineffective and not advised for the treatment of UTIs.

Having said this, some UTI over-the-counter medicine may help relieve some of the uncomfortable symptoms that come along with the infection.

Pain relievers like phenazopyridine hydrochloride can help to ease the pain associated with UTIs. They can also help with other symptoms such as burning or the frequent need to go. These are available as over-the-counter UTI medicine. Popular brands include Azo and Uristat.

Another over-the-counter medicine for UTI is Cystex which uses a combination of methenamine and sodium salicylate. This medicine is also meant to help reduce pain and burning associated with UTIs. It may also help control the infection from spreading. However, this medicine does not cure a UTI.

If you're looking to buy branded UTI medicine over-the-counter with methenamine, ask your doctor about Cystex. This medication is also available as a generic.

If you're planning on using UTI over-the-counter medicine to ease symptoms, be sure to discuss with your doctor first. In addition to this, always follow the instructions on the label or what your doctor recommends. And remember, over-the-counter UTI medicine does not cure UTIs. So, don't skip the antibiotics if your doctor prescribes it!

How to Prevent UTIs from Occurring

The age-old adage still applies-prevention is better than cure, especially if you want to avoid the use of antibiotics and over-the-counter UTI medicine altogether.

To prevent UTIs in the first place, there are some measures you can take. These include:

  • Urinating more frequently instead of holding it in for long periods
  • Urinating after sexual intercourse
  • Wiping from front to back after urination
  • Drinking lots of water

To add to the last point, plenty of water intake doesn't just help you prevent UTIs; it also has other benefits. Take a look at these other 9 reasons why you should drink more water.

For those with recurring UTIs, Hiprex (methenamine) could help. This medicine is not an over-the-counter medicine for UTI, however. It is only available by prescription.

What about cranberries for prevention? Studies have also shown that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements may help to prevent or reduce the recurrence of UTIs1,2, 3. So, it doesn't hurt to try it-just be sure to consult with your doctor first!


Resources:

  • https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/understanding-bladder-infections-diagnosis-and-treatment
  • http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/conditions/6-steps-treat-uti/
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447
  • https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/urinary/conditioninfo/affected
  • https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/urinary-tract-infection
  • https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/silent-urinary-infections-serious-consequences


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IMPORTANT NOTE: The above information is intended to increase awareness of health information and does not suggest treatment or diagnosis. This information is not a substitute for individual medical attention and should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. See your health care professional for medical advice and treatment.

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