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What Are the Consequences of an Untreated UTI?

author image Rae Uddin
Rae Uddin has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2004. She specializes in scientific journalism and medical and technical writing. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Uddin earned her Master of Science in integrated biomedical sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biochemistry from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
What Are the Consequences of an Untreated UTI?
Doctor speaking to a female patient in office. Photo Credit: simonkr/iStock/Getty Images

A UTI, or urinary tract infection, occurs when pathogens such as bacteria or viruses abnormally enter the bladder. If you have a UTI, you can experience symptoms that include pain or burning during urination and increased urinary frequency. It is important to talk with your doctor if you experience UTI symptoms, as the consequences of an untreated UTI can be serious.

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Kidney Infection

If a UTI is left untreated, the bacteria within your bladder can travel up into your kidneys. Infection of the kidneys, called pyelonephritis, can be life-threatening and can lead to additional symptoms that include back pain, fever, nausea or vomiting. You can also develop blood in your urine due to irritation and inflammation of the kidneys. A kidney infection can lead to permanent damage or scarring of the kidneys. Kidney damage caused by an untreated UTI can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure or kidney failure.


An untreated UTI can result in the spread of the infection from the bladder into the bloodstream -- a medical condition known as sepsis. Sepsis is life-threatening and can cause you to experience fever, chills, dizziness, rapid breathing, increased heart rate or confusion. This consequence of an untreated UTI can prevent the organs of your body from functioning normally, causing them to shut down.

Pregnancy Complications

Women who are pregnant can experience pregnancy complications as a consequence of an untreated UTI. Pregnant women are more likely to develop kidney infections as a result of a UTI, which can put women at an increased risk of early labor. An untreated UTI can cause a pregnant woman to deliver a low-birth-weight or premature baby, which can lead to additional medical complications for the newborn infant. Pregnant women should be checked regularly for UTIs to ensure that any infection is treated immediately, preventing the occurrence of potential pregnancy complications.

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