What Happens If A UTI Goes Untreated?

UTIs are common infections that impact the bladder, the kidneys, and the tubes connecting them. 

If you are suffering from a UTI, you may feel burning when urinating, frequent urination, and an urgent need to use the restroom. 

It usually passes within a few days and can be treated with antibiotics. 

But what happens if a UTI goes untreated?

Keep reading to find out.

What are the risks of untreated UTIs?

While a urinary tract infection may improve on its own, it typically requires antibiotics for complete resolution. 

However, if a UTI goes untreated, it may become a more severe infection. 

Leaving a UTI untreated can cause the infection to spread to other parts of the urinary tract and the body, like the kidneys.

This can result in severe and life-threatening complications.  

If the UTI develops into a kidney infection, it can be more severe and could enter the bloodstream. 

This could then cause sepsis, which can make a person very ill. 

Sepsis usually presents with the following symptoms:

  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Confusion
  • Fast heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Chills

If you or someone you know are experiencing symptoms common with UTI, it is best to see a healthcare provider. 

They can diagnose the condition correctly and treat you.

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Can an untreated UTI be dangerous?

Yes, untreated UTIs can be dangerous, as they may spread from the bladder to one or both kidneys. 

If you have a UTI for too long, this process can lead to kidney failure or permanent kidney scarring. 

Kidney infections can also cause high blood pressure. Symptoms of a kidney infection include:

  • High fever with or without chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in your lower back or your lower abdomen

Sepsis that starts in the urinary tract is known as urosepsis. 

If your healthcare providers suspect sepsis or advanced infections, they will further investigations such as: 

  • Blood tests
  • Kidney scans
  • Or an ultrasound

People who survive urosepsis can suffer life-altering consequences, including chronic pain, organ dysfunction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even amputations.

Preventing complications from urinary tract infections

To treat UTIs, healthcare providers typically prescribe a course of antibiotics. It is essential to take the entire course of antibiotics precisely as a healthcare provider prescribes. 

Some factors, such as poor hygiene, can be easily modified and help prevent or lessen the chances of UTI complications. 

There are ways to reduce the chance of UTI complications, such as:

Urinate after sexual activity

It is a good idea to pee after sex to flush out unwanted germs, such as E. Coli, that may have moved around. 

Also, avoid going from anal intercourse to vaginal intercourse without washing the penis because doing so could directly transfer germs into a woman’s urinary tract.  

Don’t hold your pee for too long

Holding in urine can increase the risk of several problems and even cause or worsen a urinary tract infection. 

Urinating is a natural way for the body to wash out germs from the urinary tract. 

Stay well hydrated

One of the most significant steps for prevention is drinking a lot of water and keeping the bladder empty. 

The American Urological Association (AUA) recommends drinking nearly half a gallon of water daily to ensure the urinary system and body have plenty of fluid.

Vitamin D

Consider taking vitamin D supplements. Researchers found that some women with recurrent UTIs had lower amounts of vitamin D than women who did not experience recurring UTIs. 

Also, Vitamin D plays a role in strengthening the immune system.

Drinking cranberry juice

Although data on cranberry is mixed, some studies show that cranberry juice or supplements may prevent recurrent UTIs.

Good Hygiene

A few hygiene tips include taking showers instead of baths and avoiding douching, sprays, or powders in the genital area.

Teaching girls to wipe from front to back while potty training prevents UTIs. Instilling this simple yet effective practice can help ensure their health and well-being.

However, do not rely on home remedies as UTI treatment since no known home remedies currently can treat a UTI. 

You must seek medical attention if you suspect or have a UTI. Your healthcare provider will perform tests such as a urine culture or urinalysis to confirm the diagnosis.

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Can a bladder infection be life-threatening?

A UTI can lead to death if left untreated. As the bacteria spread throughout the body via the bloodstream, it releases toxins and triggers an inflammatory response. 

Additionally, the bacteria can cause dysfunction of vital organs, affecting their correct functioning and ultimately resulting in the patient’s death. 

However, death rarely results from cystitis or an uncomplicated bladder infection. 

Although not widespread, UTIs may lead to a form of sepsis called urosepsis, with a mortality rate between 20%-40%. 


This article discussed what happens if a UTI goes untreated.

If left untre­ated, a UTI can escalate­ into more severe complications. The infe­ction has the potential to spread to the kidneys, resulting in a potentially life­-threatening kidney infe­ction. 

Moreover, untreate­d UTIs can lead to recurring infections, long-term bladder issues, and, in rare cases, sepsis. 

Seeking prompt me­dical attention when suspecting a UTI is crucial for pre­venting these complications and ensuring appropriate treatment.

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  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Definition & facts of bladder infection in adults.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Urinary tract infection.
  3. American Urology Association (AUA) – Urology Care Foundation: What is a Urinary Tract Infection in Adults (2019). 
  4. Flores-Mireles, A., Walker, J., Caparon, M., & Hultgren, S. (2015). Urinary tract infections: Epidemiology, mechanisms of infection and treatment options. Nature Review Microbiology, 13(5), 269-284. 
  5. Kidney infection (Pyelonephritis). (2023, March 3). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 
  6. Guliciuc M, Maier AC, Maier IM, et al. The urosepsis—a literature review. Medicina. 2021;57(9):872. doi:10.3390/medicina57090872
  7. Foxman, B., & Buxton, M. (2013). Alternative approaches to conventional treatment of acute uncomplicated urinary tract infection in women. Current Infectious Disease Reports, 15(2), 124–129. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11908-013-0317-5
  8. Vm, L. (2018). Sexual activity and the risk of acute uncomplicated urinary tract infection in premenopausal women: Implications for Reproductive Health Programming. Obstetrics & Gynecology International Journal, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.15406/ogij.2018.09.00303
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Urinary Tract Infection. 
  10. Urinary Tract Infection(UTI): Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment – Urology Care Foundation. (n.d.). 
  11. Nseir, W., Taha, M. M., Nemarny, H., & Mograbi, J. (2013). The association between serum levels of vitamin D and recurrent urinary tract infections in premenopausal women. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 17(12), e1121–e1124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2013.06.007
  12. Fu, Z., Liska, D., Talan, D. A., & Chung, M. (2017). Cranberry Reduces the risk of urinary tract infection recurrence in otherwise healthy women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Nutrition, 147(12), 2282–2288. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.117.25496
  13. Tanya Roberts, ’That “70s Show” star, dies at 65 a day after her death was prematurely announced. (2021, January 5). NBC News.

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