Medications for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

The medicines below are used to treat UTIs. Only the most basic problems are listed. Ask your doctor if there are any other steps you need to take. Use each of them as your doctor tells you. If you have any questions or can’t follow the package instructions, call your doctor. Your doctor may have you take more than one type. This is because they work in different ways.

Antibiotics may be used 3 or more days. A 3-day course has been shown to be helpful for both younger and older women. This works better than taking them for up to 10 days or more. Take all the antibiotics, even when you feel better.

Most antibiotics are taken as a pill. If the infection is serious, they may be given though an IV or as a shot.

Prescription Medications

Beta-lactam antibiotics

  • Amoxicillin
  • Cefaclor
  • Cefuroxime
  • Cefpodoxime
  • Cefixime
  • Cefepime
  • Piperacillin tazobactam

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Levofloxacin
  • Norfloxacin
  • Ofloxacin

Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole antibiotics

  • Bactrim
  • Cotrim
  • Septra

Nitrofurantoin antibiotics

  • Furadantin
  • Macrodantin

Medicines to ease symptoms

  • Phenazopyridine
  • Combination medicine

Beta-lactam Antibiotics

Common names:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Cefaclor
  • Cefuroxime
  • Cefpodoxime
  • Cefixime
  • Cefepime
  • Piperacillin tazobactam

Side effects:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rash or allergic reaction
  • Bleeding problems—if you notice bruising or bleeding is hard to stop, call your doctor
  • May interfere with birth control pills—use other forms while taking these antibiotics
  • May interfere with sugar levels in people with diabetes—talk to your doctor about your doses

Note: Some antibiotics should not be taken with alcohol. Check with your doctor.

Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics

Common names:

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Levofloxacin
  • Norfloxacin
  • Ofloxacin

Don't take these within 2-6 hours of an antacid or sucralfate. Most of these can be taken on with or without meals. Check the label first.

Side effects:

  • More sensitivity to sun
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sore, swollen tendons
  • Low blood sugar in people with diabetes
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • For levofloxacin—check with doctor if you are taking certain heart medicines
  • For enoxacin—check with your doctor before taking this with caffeine

Note: There is a high risk of disabling side effects. The US Food and Drug Administration advises these should only be used for uncomplicated UTIs if no other treatments are available.

Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole Antibiotic

Common brand names

  • Bactrim
  • Cotrim
  • Septra

These medicines are not used in babies under 3 months old. The risk of bleeding is higher in older people.

Side effects:

  • Increased sensitivity to sun
  • Itching
  • Skin rash
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Lightheadedness

Nitrofurantoin Antibiotics

Common brand names:

  • Furadantin
  • Macrodantin

These should be taken with food or milk. This will help lower the chances of an upset stomach.

Side effects:

  • May interfere with sugar levels in people with diabetes—talk to your doctor about your doses
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Lung problems—rare

Medicines to Ease Symptoms

Phenazopyridine

Common brand names:

  • Basidium
  • Erodium
  • AZO Standard
  • Pyridium

These will help burning, urgency, and the number of times you feel you have to pass urine. Stop taking them when you feel better. Try not to take them longer than 2 days. Don't wear your contact lenses while taking these. They may cause permanent stains on your lenses.

Side effects:

  • Reddish-orange color to your urine and sweat
  • Headache
  • Stomach problems

Call your doctor right away for:

  • Problems with breathing
  • Problems with thinking clearly
  • Not passing a lot of urine
  • Blue color to your skin
Combination Medicines

Common brand names:

  • Prosed
  • Urised

These have more than one medicine to treat an infection, and ease bladder spasms and pain.

Side effects:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Problems thinking clearly
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Change in color of urine or stool to blue or green

Call your doctor right away for:

  • Problems with breathing
  • Severe lightheadedness
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Problems thinking clearly
  • You can't pass urine
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Sudden vision problems
  • A rash

Older people may have more problems with taking these.

Special Considerations

If you are taking medicines:

  • Take the medicine as directed. Don’t change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine.
  • Don’t share your prescription medicine.
  • Medicines can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medicine. This includes over-the-counter products and supplements.
  • Plan for refills as needed.

References:

Bacterial urinary tract infections (UTIs). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/urinary-tract-infections-utis/bacterial-urinary-tract-infections-utis. Updated June 2018. Accessed September 20, 2018.
FDA drug safety communication: FDA updates warnings for oral and injectable fluoroquinolone antibiotics due to disabling side effects. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm511530.htm. Updated March 8, 2018. Accessed September 12, 2016.
Lutters M, Vogt-Ferrier NB. Antibiotic duration for treating uncomplicated, symptomatic lower urinary tract infections in elderly women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;(3):CD001535.
Treatment. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults/treatment. Updated March 2017. Accessed September 20, 2018.
Uncomplicated urinary tract infection (UTI) (pyelonephritis and cystitis). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated June 4, 2018. Accessed September 20, 2018.
Urinary tract infections in adults. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/urinary-tract-infections-in-adults. Accessed September 20, 2018.
12/5/2007 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Pohl A. Modes of administration of antibiotics for symptomatic severe urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database of Syst Rev. 2007;(4):CD003237.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD

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