Many women are frustrated that they can’t get relief from ongoing urinary tract infection symptoms. Getting to the root cause of the symptoms is the first step.
A research study conducted in May 2020 among over 800 women showed that almost half (46%) had a UTI in the past year. What’s worse, over 30% of them had three or more UTIs, which is the official definition of a chronic UTI.
This research also revealed that there are actually two categories of chronic UTI sufferers:
1. Women with a diagnosed UTI: Bacteria was found in their urine sample
2. Women with UTI symptoms, but no UTI: Bacteria was NOT found in their urine sample
Here’s a brief overview of these two groups of chronic UTI sufferers and the possible causes of their UTI symptoms.
1. Women With A Diagnosed UTI
There are several reasons why you are getting a UTI over and over again. Some of the causes may be easily addressed, but many others are impossible to diagnose and treat accurately.
1) Lack of hydration
A urologist will explain that the bladder should be constantly replenished with water in order to remain healthy and that if old urine remains in the bladder too long, it can develop bacteria and a UTI sets in. The rule of thumb is to drink 6-8 glasses of water each day. Many women just don’t like drinking water, especially as they age, because it requires more frequent urination.
2) Inaccurate testing
The testing done at an OB/GYN office has been shown to be highly inaccurate, as the equipment that they use to diagnose your UTI in the office is very basic. The urine cultures done at a urologist’s office will be more sophisticated, but remain limited to looking for the standard types of bacteria. New tests are now available which use genetic sequencing (DNA) to analyze not only bacteria but fungi, parasites, and viruses which may be affecting your health both within and outside of the urinary tract.
3) The wrong antibiotic
As we all know, the typical response to discovering that you have a UTI (again) is to prescribe an antibiotic. First, it’s really important to ask your doctor whether the new infection is caused by the same bacteria as the old one, or whether it’s a different type of bacteria. Second, find out the name of the bacteria. It’s possible that the antibiotic that is being prescribed is not the correct one. Recent medical research shows that only certain antibiotics will destroy specific types of bacteria.
4) Antibiotic resistance
This is the most common cause of chronic UTI’s. Over the years, many women have probably taken the most popular antibiotics. This over-prescribing has led to “antibiotic resistance”, which means that the bacteria have learned how to hide and mutate in your system. So as soon as the course of antibiotics has been completed, they begin to grow all over again.
This problem has caused scientists to work on new types of antibiotics, but they’re having a hard time getting the funding they need. The medical community is already sending out warning signals that this may be the next worldwide health crisis.
The data shows that simple infections have begun to turn into life-threatening illnesses. In fact, over 23,000 people have died from UTIs in the past year.
The two bacteria which are most often the cause of UTIs are Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Both are part of a family of germs known as Enterobacteriaceae. These germs can produce enzymes called extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs). ESBL enzymes break down and destroy some commonly used antibiotics and make these drugs ineffective for treating infections.
These are slimy “sacs” that the bacteria surround themselves with after burrowing into the lining of the bladder. This protects them against the threat of antibiotics. It is very difficult to diagnose the presence of biofilms today, but researchers are working on this aggressively because they have identified that this is a significant cause of recurring UTIs.