Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): Online Diagnosis and Treatment
Over half of adult women are familiar with the burning, painful sensation of a urinary tract infection (UTI), also known as a kidney infection.1 Once an uncomfortable UTI starts, you need a quick, convenient, and simple way to get online UTI treatment, regardless of whether you have insurance or it is after business hours for your local healthcare provider. Using telehealth for UTI treatment, you can receive fast, convenient UTI treatment after consulting with a virtual doctor.
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UTIs are the most commonly treated infection in the U.S. They are responsible for more than 8.6 million healthcare visits yearly, costing $1.6 billion.2
UTIs are up to 30 times more common in women because of their shorter urethra.3 Other than a spike in prevalence in women between the ages of 14 and 24, the prevalence of UTIs steadily increases with age. Women over 65 have double the risk for UTIs.1 Up to 4 in every ten women who have had a UTI will get at least one more within six months.3
In fact, UTIs are so common it is easy to pick up an over-the-counter test to confirm that you have a UTI, but once verified, you need antibiotics. This is where telehealth for UTIs can be a lifesaver. You schedule an appointment with a virtual doctor to verify your UTI diagnosis and receive a prescription for UTI treatment, all from the comfort of your home.
What Is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
Urine is produced in the kidneys, travels to the bladder through the ureters, and exits the body through the urethra. Women have a much shorter urethra than men because the male urethra travels the length of the penis.
UTIs include infections of the bladder (cystitis/lower urinary tract infection) and the kidney (pyelonephritis/upper urinary tract infection). Upper urinary tract infections tend to be more severe and are more frequently classified as complicated.
Most UTIs are uncomplicated infections due to an Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection. E Coli bacteria are found in the stool. The bacteria grow in colonies around the opening of the urethra and the vagina. When bacteria ascend the urethra and attach to the bladder lining, they can cause a UTI. After colonizing the bladder, the bacteria can continue to travel upward in the urinary system and colonize the kidney.
When a bacterial infection extends beyond the bladder, the infection has moved into the kidneys and may enter the bloodstream. This is called a complicated UTI. Complicated UTIs have the following features:
- Extreme fatigue
- Flank (back) pain
- Nausea and vomiting
Can You Be Treated for a UTI Through Telehealth?
The vast majority of people with an uncomplicated UTI can be treated through telehealth. In most cases, women quickly recognize UTI symptoms and need a prescription for UTI treatment. Telemedicine for UTI treatment makes it easy to arrange a medical consultation with a virtual doctor to discuss your uncomplicated UTI symptoms and receive a prescription for an antibiotic, the most commonly prescribed UTI treatment. Assuming your Telegra MD virtual doctor agrees that your symptoms are consistent with an uncomplicated UTI, they will send your online prescription to your local pharmacy electronically so you can get started on treatment as soon as possible.
To protect your health and receive the correct treatment, it is very important that you give complete and accurate answers on your health intake questionnaire. Our doctors and nurse practitioners will use widely accepted, evidence-based guidelines to review your answers and determine whether an uncomplicated UTI is the most appropriate diagnosis.
There are risks and benefits when taking any medication, and there are risks associated with waiting to treat a UTI. If you are unsure of your diagnosis, it may be better to pick up a UTI over-the-counter test strip to verify an infection before making an appointment using telemedicine for UTI treatment.
If you have any of the following symptoms or conditions, it is better to see a local practitioner in person rather than seeing a virtual doctor for UTI treatment:
- Fever or chills
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Nausea or vomiting
- Prolonged symptoms
- Pain in your back or sides
Telemedicine provides an excellent UTI treatment option for most women with an uncomplicated UTI.
How Do You Get a UTI?
Most uncomplicated UTIs occur because bacteria from the rectum colonize the urethra and attach to the bladder’s lining. In about half of cases, if a UTI is untreated, the bacteria will continue up the ureters and infect the kidneys.3
What Are the Common Symptoms of a UTI?
To determine whether you should see a virtual doctor using telemedicine to receive UTI treatment, review the following common UTI symptoms:
- Burning with urination
- Cloudy urine
- Urine with a foul odor
- Increased urgency to urinate
- Urinating more frequently
- Blood tinged urine
- Pain just above the pelvic bones
Symptoms of an upper UTI or kidney infection include:
- Flank or back pain
Men with a UTI may experience rectal pain. Women with UTIs may also have pelvic pain in addition to the more common UTI symptoms.
Are There Less Common or Worrisome UTI Symptoms?
If you have symptoms of a complicated UTI or think the infection has traveled to your kidneys or your bloodstream, you should be seen by your local doctor as soon as possible.
The best way to prevent a kidney infection is to get a lower UTI or bladder infection treated as promptly as possible. When left untreated, bacteria can continue to spread through your urinary tract and potentially enter your bloodstream, a condition known as sepsis. Telehealth for UTI treatment makes it easy to consult with a virtual doctor and receive UTI treatment quickly and easily, even if you don’t have insurance.
When Should You See a Doctor?
If your symptoms point to an uncomplicated UTI or if you are like many women and have experienced a UTI and are already familiar with classic UTI symptoms, complete the health information intake form on the Telegra MD website to consult with a virtual doctor who treats UTIs regularly.
Before telemedicine for UTI treatment, women with UTI symptoms needed to wait until they could get an appointment with their local doctor. Sometimes, a delay in treating UTIs can increase your risk for a complicated UTI.
Are Some People at Increased Risk for a UTI or Kidney Infection?
Factors that may increase your risk for UTIs include:3
- Having diabetes
- Being pregnant
- Using a urinary catheter
- Using spermicidal agents or a diaphragm
- Increasing age
- Having an enlarged prostate or kidney stones
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having new or multiple sex partners
- Having sex more than 3 times per week
- Having a UTI before the age of 15
- Being postmenopausal
How Do You Diagnose a UTI?
A UTI can be quickly diagnosed with a urine test or urinalysis. If you see a local doctor, you will probably be asked to collect a clean urine sample for analysis. After wiping the genital area from front to back, begin urinating. Catch a small amount of urine in the urine sample cup. The best sample is midstream. After urinating, you will cap your sample and deliver it to the lab or healthcare provider.
Options for testing your urine are also available when you see a virtual doctor for UTI treatment. For example, you can use an at-home test.
These tests detect substances in your urine that are commonly elevated when you have a UTI: nitrites and leukocytes. Nitrates are a byproduct of nitrogen metabolism that is normally excreted in urine. When bacteria enter the urinary system, they convert nitrates to nitrites. Leukocytes are white blood cells. Increased numbers of leukocytes in the urine indicate a UTI.
At-home UTI tests are easy to use and are typically inexpensive. Steps for conducting an at-home UTI test include the following:
- Remove a test strip from its packaging and hold it in your urine stream for several seconds.
- Hold the test strip up to the color indicator table on the box.
- Compare the color on your urine test strip to the positive and negative results on the table.
How Can You Treat a UTI Online?
If you have UTI symptoms and use an at-home UTI test kit to verify your UTI, the next step is to get antibiotics to treat your infection—the sooner, the better. Of course, many women are so familiar with the symptoms associated with an uncomplicated UTI that they don’t feel the need to use a UTI test kit for verification.
The steps for treating a UTI after seeing a doctor online through telemedicine are similar to seeing your local doctor. In both cases, you would:
- Make an appointment: Typically, appointments to see virtual doctors through telehealth are much easier to make and are more convenient, as many telemedicine companies provide online telehealth services for UTI treatment at any time, day or night.
- Provide a medical history: Whether completing forms in your local doctor’s office or online before consulting with your virtual doctor, you will need to provide a medical history.
- Consult with your doctor: After reviewing your medical history forms, your virtual doctor will determine whether your symptoms are consistent with an uncomplicated UTI.
- Treatment: If you are diagnosed with an uncomplicated UTI, your virtual doctor will transmit a prescription for UTI treatment to your local pharmacy.
Using telemedicine for UTI treatment is a cost-effective, safe, and convenient option for UTI treatment for women with uncomplicated UTIs.
What Medications Do Virtual Doctors Prescribe for UTIs?
Virtual doctors prescribe the same antibiotics to treat a UTI as local community doctors do. In some cases, the same doctor may provide local and virtual care.
Whether you receive UTI treatment online through telemedicine or a local healthcare provider, if you have an uncomplicated UTI, you can expect to receive an antibiotic following the clinical practice guidelines for treating uncomplicated UTI. The American Urological Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America recommend the following antibiotics as a first-line treatment for uncomplicated UTIs:4
- Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Macrobid, Furadantin)
- Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim)
- Fosfomycin (Monurol)
When completing your medical intake forms for UTI treatment, be sure to include all medication allergies. This will help ensure your virtual doctor prescribes the most appropriate and safe medication possible to treat your uncomplicated UTI.
Can You Prevent a UTI?
UTIs are common among adult women. Recurrent UTIs are defined as having three or more UTIs within 12 months or two or more infections within six months.3 You can’t entirely prevent a UTI, but you can reduce your risk by taking the following steps:
- Stay well-hydrated
- Urinate as needed, don’t wait
- Urinate before and after having sex
- Practice good hygiene
- Take showers instead of baths
- Use an alternative contraceptive instead of spermicide creams or diaphragm
- Wear cotton underwear
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes
- Avoid using soaps and body washes with perfumes
- Drink cranberry juice
Using controlled clinical studies, researchers have disputed the belief that these factors affect UTI risk:3
- Increased body mass index
- Wiping back to front after a bowel movement
- Hot tub use
- Frequent tampon use
- Increased hydration
- Wearing cotton underwear
Women who are at risk for recurrent, uncomplicated UTIs can try these risk-reducing strategies to prevent UTIs, but if symptoms develop, contact a virtual doctor using telehealth for UTI to receive a timely and accurate diagnosis and prescription for UTI treatment.
Other Common Questions
Can you get antibiotics to treat a UTI by seeing an online doctor?
Yes, as long as you have an uncomplicated UTI. Many virtual doctors limit their online practice to treating uncomplicated UTIs. People with a risk factor for UTI, such as pregnancy or diabetes, or with symptoms of a complicated UTI, should see their local doctor.
Why do I keep getting UTIs?
Women, especially postmenopausal women, are at an increased risk for UTIs. Women have a shorter urethra than men, which makes it easier for bacteria to ascend the urethra and get to the bladder.
After menopause, many women experience vaginal and genital dryness, irritation, and cracking, which can increase the risk of a UTI.
Can a UTI go away on its own?
A UTI, like any infection, can go away on its own if your immune system can eradicate the bacteria faster than they multiply. Delaying UTI treatment can lead to serious complications such as sepsis, a rare, but potentially life-threatening condition.
Will an online doctor prescribe the same UTI treatment as my local doctor?
Both an online and local doctor will follow clinical practice guidelines for diagnosing and treating a UTI. Unless you have a medication allergy or an extenuating circumstance, you can expect to be prescribed one of the three first-line antibiotics recommended to treat an uncomplicated UTI.
Can men get UTIs?
It is much less common for men to get UTIs because of their longer urethra. Men with risk factors such as diabetes and men who use urinary catheters are at increased risk for UTIs.
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.
1. Medina M, Castillo-Pino E. An introduction to the epidemiology and burden of urinary tract infections. Ther Adv Urol. 2019 May 2;11:1756287219832172. doi: 10.1177/1756287219832172. PMID: 31105774; PMCID: PMC6502976.
2. Langner JL, Chiang KF, Stafford RS. Current prescribing practices and guideline concordance for the treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2021 Sep;225(3):272.e1-272.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2021.04.218. Epub 2021 Apr 20. PMID: 33848538.
3. Arnold, J.J., Hehn, L.E., Klein, D.A. (2016). Common questions about recurrent urinary tract infections in women. American Family Physician; 93(7): 560-569. 4. Davis, NIALL & Flood, Hugh. (2011). The Pathogenesis of Urinary Tract Infections. 10.5772/22308.