Over the Counter Pain Killer for Urinary Tract Infection

Summary: A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) can be very common in women.  They should not be self-diagnosed.  In addition to antibiotics your doctor will likely prescribe Pyridium to help with the pain.  Lower strength versions of Pyridium are available over the counter.  Pyridium comes with side effects you should know about as well as specific dosing recommendations.

Dear Curtis: I’m a 43 year old woman and I’m pretty sure that I have urinary tract infection (UTI) but I don’t want to have to go into the doctor.  Isn’t there something over the counter they make that will help with the pain?

Well, I get this kind of question a lot and that’s understandable.  After all, who really wants to pay for a doctors visit when they ‘think’ they might know what they have?  And, while you might be correct and truly have a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) I would urge you to verify that with your doctor because there may be something more serious going on.

Now, once your doctor has confirmed a UTI she will almost surely put you on a course of antibiotics.  In addition to that, it’s very common for the doctor to prescribe Pyridium (phenazopyridine) along with that.  Pyridium is a prescription strength drug (200mg) that is taken by mouth.  When it’s taken it actually works it’s way through your body quickly and is primarily removed from your body through your kidneys.  In short, Pyridium is what we call a topical analgesic.  Meaning it works on the surface to relieve pain.  So, as it passes through your kidneys and urethra it is actually relieving your pain.  Pretty amazing really.  The most amazing part is – we don’t actually understand HOW it works, only that it does.

Now, while I said Pyridium is prescription only, it actually has lower strength ‘cousins’ that are available over the counter.  The 95mg phenazopyridine goes by the brand names Aso-Standard or Prodium.  There is also a 100mg strength product called Baridium.

Irregardless of whether you get the prescription strength version or the over the counter version the dosage remains the same: 100mg to 200mg three times daily for adults.  Also, there can be side effects with phenazopyridine.  Most notably (and alarmingly in many patients who aren’t warned about it) is the reddish tinge that can be seen in your urine.  This is very common and is not something to be alarmed about.

Kidney Function

Another reason you really need to see your doctor is because phenazopyridine should be carefully monitored as it can build up in patients who have poor kidney function.  As I mentioned above, phenazopyridine is eliminated from your body by your kidneys.  When they aren’t functioning up to snuff the drug can build up.  In many elderly patients with poor kidney function this build up can show up as yellowish tinge in the skin.  Also, Pyridium or any of the over the counter products should NOT be used more than two days.

First of all, phenazopyridine has shown no benefit to patients when used longer then two days when it is also being given with an antibiotic.  Secondly, that is really the purpose of Pyridium: to get into your system right away and start helping with the pain until your antibiotic kicks in.  So taking more really only costs you more money.

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