There are two types of UTIs: simple and complicated. Simple UTIs are infections that happen in healthy people with normal urinary tracts.
Complicated UTIs happen in abnormal urinary tracts or when the bacteria causing the infection cannot be treated by many antibiotics. Most women have simple UTIs, while the UTIs in men and children should be thought of as complicated.
A simple UTI can be treated with a short course of antibiotic meds. A 3-day course of antibiotics will often treat most uncomplicated UTIs. However, some infections may need to be treated for 5 days. Depending on the type of antibiotic used, you may take a single dose per day or up to 4 doses per day. Pain and the urge to urinate often go away after a few doses, but you should still take the full course of the meds even if you feel better. Unless UTIs are fully treated, they can often return. You should also drink plenty of liquids, especially around the time of a UTI.
Postmenopausal women with UTIs may be helped by topical (vaginal) hormone replacement (estrogen). Since some patients cannot take estrogen replacement, you should talk with your health care provider before starting any treatment.
If the UTI is a complicated UTI, then a longer course of antibiotics is given and is often started intravenously (IV) in the hospital. After a short period of IV antibiotics, the antibiotics are given by mouth for up to many weeks. Kidney infections are often treated as a complicated UTI.