What are the Different Types of Antibiotics for Urinary Tract Infections?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 03 February 2019
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Urinary tract infections occur when harmful bacteria is introduced into the urinary tract, which consists of the two kidneys, the bladder, the tubes called ureters that connect each kidney to the bladder, and the urethra, the tube leading to the outside of the body from the bladder. Antibiotic therapy is typically needed to successfully treat these infections. Some types of antibiotics for urinary tract infections include sulfa drugs, penicillin, and cephalosporins.

Sulfa medications are the most commonly prescribed antibiotics for UTIs. Sulfa-based antibiotics have traditionally been prescribed as a seven- to 10-day treatment. Studies have shown that a three-day treatment is just as effective and has fewer side effects. For patients who may be particularly sensitive to the side effects, a one-day treatment is available, although it is somewhat less effective than the three-day course of treatment. Sulfa allergies are relatively common, and possible side effects of this medication include a rash, stomach pain, and anemia.

Penicillin is a popular group of antibiotics for urinary tract infections. These medications have been used for many years, leading to certain types of bacteria becoming resistant to penicillin. This means that this class of antibiotic will not be effective against these bacterial strains. There are a significant number of patients who are allergic to penicillin and may have life-threatening reactions, including difficulty breathing, when taking penicillin-type medications.


Cephalosporins are another class of antibiotics for urinary tract infections. This class of medication may be prescribed to patients who have not responded well to more traditionally used antibiotic therapies. Side effects are rare but may include stomach cramps or diarrhea. Since cephalosporins work in much the same way as penicillin, patients who are allergic to penicillin may not be able to take this medication.

Fluoroquinolones are the newest class of antibiotics for urinary tract infections. These are synthetic medications that are not chemically related to cephalosporins or penicillins and can be taken by many patients who are sensitive or allergic to other types of antibiotics. Fluoroquinolones are absorbed well by the body and may be given in oral form or through an IV. Most patients will not experience any negative side effects from this medication, but in rare cases nausea or abdominal pain may occur. As with all medications, if any unusual side effects develop after starting any type of antibiotic therapy, a doctor should be consulted right away.


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Post 1

Cipro is the most common go-to antibiotic for a UTI, but sometimes, they require more potent medications.

My mother got a raging UTI several years ago and had to be hospitalized. She is elderly and was out of her head. Her doctor prescribed Levaquin by IV. That's strong stuff, but it was necessary in order to knock out the infection.

Nowadays, if we think she might have an early UTI, we call her doctor and he will usually call in some Cipro. Problem solved.

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