PHOTO: UNSPLASH

We have a serious Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) problem in Canada. Almost every female will experience one in their lifetime, and many of those will continue to have ongoing adverse effects due to the issues around diagnosing and treating UTIs. 

In Alberta Health Services acute care facilities, over 4,500 patients are admitted every year with a UTI diagnosis. In 2019, there were more than 28,000 emergency room visits attributed to UTIs in Alberta – the fourth most common diagnosis for patients presenting in emergency rooms. 

Doctors take several different approaches to diagnose UTIs in Canada, and the efficacy is questionable. Experts say the commonly used dipstick testing, where a plastic strip treated with chemicals is dipped into a urine sample immediately indicating normal or abnormal levels, is at least 75 per cent inaccurate. And there is no evidence-based consensus that currently exists regarding the use of the commonplace microscopic exams where a urine sample is looked at under a microscope. 

As a result of these deficiencies, Canada’s new guidelines for diagnosing and treating recurrent UTIs in women are seeking to add urine culture testing to detect infections. In this test, a urine sample is given several days to see if bacteria will grow in a lab setting and is then examined under a microscope. However, the accuracy of culture results still leaves much to be desired. 

One out of every five times the urine culture test reports a false negative. Research out of the United Kingdom has shown not only is this test unreliable but the false results can lead to a misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatments. 

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UTIs are difficult to diagnose because they have common symptoms with a variety of other illnesses which then makes them hard to pinpoint.

Another issue with recurring UTIs is how antibiotics are used to treat them. The guidelines suggest that antibiotics should be administered for as few days as possible to avoid resistance but long enough to kill the bacteria causing the infection. Part of the problem is patients going on and off antibiotics which can lead to the bacteria building up a resistance to the medication eventually making it ineffective. In contrast, a treatment used in the United Kingdom for patients with chronic UTIs involves the long-term use of antibiotics. 

With UTIs, the symptoms vary as much as the diagnosis and treatment. From the common burning sensation that women experience to going to the bathroom up to 30 times an hour, it could also mean an emergency trip to the hospital or a lifetime of isolation.

Click on the above video to learn more and hear the stories of the Canadian women dealing with UTIs or go to: 

https://thebushfireproject.wixsite.com/bushfire