You may be surprised to discover that you can have a UTI for a long time without realizing it. You can also have a UTI but no symptoms show themselves even though you are ill.
Indeed, most people who have one don’t know it, because the symptoms are often mild and go unnoticed. Read on to find out what you need to know about UTIs and how to tell if you have one.
Table of Contents
- Can You Have a UTI Without Symptoms?
- What Is Asymptomatic Bacteriuria?
- How Long Can You Have a UTI Without Knowing It?
- What Happens if a UTI Goes Untreated for a Long Time?
- How to Treat a UTI?
- How to Prevent a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
Can You Have a UTI Without Symptoms?
It’s possible to have a UTI without symptoms, otherwise known as an asymptomatic UTI or silent UTI. This is more common in older adults, babies, and young children. However, a UTI can cause permanent kidney damage if it’s not treated promptly, it’s vital that you see a doctor as soon as you suspect you might have one.
What Is Asymptomatic Bacteriuria?
Asymptomatic bacteriuria means there are bacteria in the urine without any symptoms of infection. This condition is more common in women than men, and it can occur at any age. Although studies show asymptomatic bacteriuria is usually harmless, it may lead to serious complications if left untreated.
People with asymptomatic bacteriuria often do not know they have it because they experience no symptoms. The condition is usually discovered during a routine urine test. In some cases, asymptomatic bacteriuria may be found when a person has a urinary tract infection (UTI) but does not have any symptoms of the infection.
Some people are more susceptible to having Asymptomatic bacteriuria than others. Risk factors for asymptomatic bacteriuria include being female, old age, as well as people with urinary catheters. While it is rare in children.
Asymptomatic bacteriuria is usually treated with antibiotics and is particularly recommended for pregnant women and anyone that is about to have surgery on the urinary tract area. This helps to prevent complications and clear the infection. People who have asymptomatic bacteriuria may be more likely to develop a UTI, so they may need to be monitored closely.
How Long Can You Have a UTI Without Knowing It?
You might be surprised to learn that you can have a UTI for weeks without knowing it. In fact, most people with urinary tract infections don’t experience any symptoms until the infection has reached the bladder.
Symptoms of a UTI can include:
- The feeling of a constant urge to urinate
- Issues with bladder control
- More frequent urination
- Fatigue and feeling tired
- Pain when urinating
- Pelvic pain or burning sensation
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Fever or chills
- Nausea or vomiting
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your healthcare provider right away as urinary tract infections can lead to more serious health problems if left untreated.
What Happens if a UTI Goes Untreated for a Long Time?
UTIs rarely go away on their own, and If one goes untreated for too long, sometimes the bacteria travel from the lower urinary tract to the kidneys and cause a more serious infection. Common symptoms of a kidney infection can include:
- Severe pain in your back or side
- High fever
- Nausea or vomiting
- Mental confusion or delirium
- Blood in your urine
If you experience any of the symptoms of a kidney infection or untreated UTIs it’s important to get prompt treatment as a kidney infection can be life-threatening and require advice diagnosis or treatment such as intravenous antibiotics.
How to Treat a UTI?
The best way to treat a UTI is to see your healthcare provider. The process of diagnosis will involve taking a urine sample, and from this creating a urine culture. If your urine culture comes back positive for bacteria like ecoili, you will be prescribed oral antibiotics. This is because antibiotic treatment is the only thing that can kill the bacteria causing the infection.
There are also some things you can do at home to help relieve symptoms while you’re waiting for the antibiotics to work:
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to help flush the bacteria out of your system.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help relieve pain and inflammation.
- Apply a heating pad to your lower abdomen to help relieve pain when you sleep.
- Urinate frequently and empty your bladder completely each time to help flush out the bacteria.
- Avoid sexual activity
- Avoid things that will irritate the urinary tract infection such as spicy foods and caffeine.
How to Prevent a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
There are also some strategies you can use to prevent UTIs. One is to make sure you stay hydrated, as water helps to flush out your urinary tract.
In addition to drinking plenty, you should also avoid holding in your urine for long periods of time. When you do have to go, don’t wait! Doing so allows bacteria to grow and multiply, which increases your risk of developing a UTI.
If you are sexually active, urinating after sexual intercourse can help to flush out any bacteria that may have been introduced into the urinary tract. This is especially important for women, as a woman’s urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) is shorter and is therefore more susceptible to urinary tract infections, as well as those using diaphragms for birth control.
Finally, always make sure to wipe from front to back after using the restroom. This simple step helps to keep bacteria from getting into the urethra and causing an infection.
When to See a Doctor?
If you’re experiencing UTI symptoms, or kidney infection symptoms it’s important to see a medical professional as soon as possible. The sooner you’re treated, the less likely you are to experience complications.
Your doctor will likely start by asking about your symptoms and medical history. They may also perform a physical exam. Based on this information, they’ll determine whether you have a UTI and, if so, what’s causing it.
If you have a UTI, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. In most cases, symptoms improve within a few days of starting treatment. However, it’s important to take the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed to make sure the infection is completely gone.
If you’re experiencing severe symptoms or your UTI doesn’t improve with treatment, your medical professional may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and treatment.
Don’t delay seeing a doctor if you think you have a UTI. Early UTI diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications.
How Can DrHouse Help You?
At DrHouse we provide high-quality, affordable healthcare from the comfort of your own home. With us, you can make on-demand virtual doctor visits and get the care and treatment you need.
Our clinicians can help you with a range of issues, from urinary tract infections to kidney infections. Our online doctors will diagnose, create a treatment plan, offer advice on how to prevent UTIs in the future, and prescribe medication if necessary.
Is It Possible for a UTI to Go Unnoticed?
Yes, UTIs can be sneaky like that. Sometimes UTIs present no symptoms (asymptomatic UTIs) and other times symptoms can be so mild that they’re easy to overlook.
Can You Have a UTI for Months and Not Know It?
While you can have a UTI without knowing it, it’s most likely not going to last for months per see. Typically untreated UTIs last for about a week. However, you might experience recurrent UTIs (chronic UTIs), which means you get UTIs often.
What Happens if UTI Is Left Untreated for 2 Weeks?
While most UTIs are relatively mild and can be cleared up with a course of antibiotics, some can lead to more serious complications. If left untreated for 2 weeks, a UTI can spread to the kidneys, causing kidney damage and potentially leading to kidney failure. In addition, a UTI can cause sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by inflammation and organ damage.
- The most important things to remember about UTIs are:
- You can have a urinary tract infection with no symptoms!
- If you suspect you have a UTI, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible.
- Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. You will need to take the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed to make sure the infection is completely gone.
- If you’re experiencing severe symptoms or your UTI doesn’t improve with treatment, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and treatment.
- Urinary Tract Infection, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html
- Nicolle LE. Management of Asymptomatic UTIs in Women. Medscape Women’s Health. 1996 Mar;1(3):4. PMID: 9746621.
- Nicolle, Lindsay E.. Asymptomatic bacteriuria. Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: February 2014 – Volume 27 – Issue 1 – p 90-96 doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1097/QCO.0000000000000019
- Givler DN, Givler A. Asymptomatic Bacteriuria. [Updated 2022 Jul 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441848/
- Signs and Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections, Everyday Health. Available from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/uti/guide/symptoms/