Why Is It Important to Treat a Urinary Tract Infection Early?

Urinary infections are very common in our society and you should treat them early on to avoid complications. Some of these complications can lead to death.
Why Is It Important to Treat a Urinary Tract Infection Early?
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 09 October, 2022

This condition is the second most common cause of infection contracted outside the hospital. It usually occurs about 30-35 times more in women than in men. However, few are aware of the complications if you don’t treat a urinary tract infection in time.

Before we start, you should know that there are different types of genitourinary tract infections, depending on the affected part, not just the well-known cystitis. Likewise, doctors will treat them based on their cause.

In this article we’ll explain the different types that exist and why it’s important you diagnose and treat them in time.

Types of urinary infections

We can group them into two main groups:

  • Lower urinary tract infections: These include those that occur along the path from the bladder to the end of the urethra, where urine flows out. The infections that can occur are the following:
    • Cystitis: inflammation of the urinary bladder
    • Prostatitis: inflammation of the prostate
    • Urethritis: inflammation of the urethra
  • Upper urinary tract infections – These affect the kidneys and the structures that draw urine from them and carry it to the bladder, called the ureters. These infections are as follows:

Risk factors

Black and white photo of woman with hands over crotch.

The urinary tract is sterile, that is, there are no microorganisms in it. This is due to three fundamental factors:
  • The pH is very acidic
  • The existence of urea
  • Continuous urinary flow that prevents microorganisms from spreading

Therefore, any change in these factors can cause bacteria to ascend the urinary tract leading to infections. For example, an obstruction, either due to a growth of the prostate or a stone, causes a stoppage in the continuous urinary flow and produces an overgrowth of bacteria.

The external genitalia, especially those of women, have bacteria of the Lactobacillus type that produce lactic acid, bactericides, and hydrogen peroxide. These substances kill any pathogenic microorganism that wants to ascend the urinary tract.

There can be an alteration of the Lactobacillus if you take antibiotics without control, leading to a higher risk of infections.

In addition, bladder catheterization is an important risk factor. The catheter, which is a tube that enters the urinary tract into the bladder to allow urine to pass, is a perfect place for bacteria to attach and cause infections.

How do these infections affect people based on age or sex?

In childhood you can have urinary infections, but they’re usually related to abnormalities that children have in the urinary tract from birth. This is something that requires attention, since it may require surgical repair.

There are different incidences of urinary infections depending on a person’s sex:

  • Men don’t usually have urinary tract infections until they’re around 60. They have a longer urethra and the prostatic fluid they secrete is acidic and kills bacteria. However, after the age of 60, the size of the prostate increases and the risk of infection due to obstruction of the urinary tract increases.
  • Women are much more at risk of these infections throughout their lives. This is because the female urethra is much shorter and microorganisms can access the bladder faster. Furthermore, after menopause estrogens decrease which reduces protection against pathogens.
Woman in white sitting in bed, treat urinary tract infections early to avoid complications.

What microorganisms are involved?

The microorganisms that cause these infections usually come from the intestinal tract. Specifically, most are bacteria; the most common one is Escherichia Coli, regardless of the person’s condition.

Other microorganisms are Klebsiella and Proteus bacteria. But, if the person has more complicated infections or has a catheter, doctors should consider the possibility of multi-resistant microorganisms. They can also be due to multiple bacteria.

Complications if you don’t treat a urinary tract infection

If you started with a lower urinary tract condition, such as cystitis, and you didn’t take care of it properly, the bacteria may be able to continue to ascend and reach the kidneys. This is the problem if you don’t treat a urinary tract infection in time.

This kidney infection, as we explained above, is called pyelonephritis. If detected early, it’s sometimes not complicated and can be cured with the correct medication. However, it can cause complications by giving rise to kidney abscesses.

Kidney abscesses are masses in the kidney. In them we can find the conglomerate dead microorganisms along with our defense cells, generating a collection of pus. They must be treated with antibiotics intravenously; if they’re very large, they’ll have to be drained.

On the other hand, the bacteria that caused the urinary infection can pass into the blood causing sepsis. If it continues to evolve, it can cause septic shock and death. This happens because the passage of microorganisms into the blood activates your body’s defense response and this causes damage to the different tissues.

Treat a urinary tract infection early

For all the reasons we stated, to avoid complications, you should treat urinary infections early. If you feel these symptoms, you should go to your doctor.

Some of these symptoms are as follows:

  • Pollakiuria: increased number of times you pee during the day
  • Dysuria: pain when urinating
  • Tenesmus: an urgent desire to urinate that makes you go to the bathroom several times
  • Urinary urgency
  • Color changes in urine: may indicate the presence of blood
  • Stomach ache

A specialist is the one who can prescribe the treatment you need. If they give you an antibiotic regimen for a certain period of time, you should follow it correctly to avoid these and other complications.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.