According to many experts, recurrent urinary tract infections (rUTIs) are becoming more common worldwide. Around 60 per cent of women will experience symptomatic acute bacterial cystitis in their lifetime. It is estimated that 20 to 40 per cent of women who have had one previous cystitis episode will likely experience another one, of that number 25 to 50 per cent will experience multiple recurrent episodes.
The following five tips have been compiled after interview with Victoria Ashley who has experienced rUTIs for almost 20 years, Melissa Kramer, founder of Live UTI Free, an online patient advocacy group and Dr. James Dickenson, professor of family medicine and community health sciences at the University of Calgary.
- Educate yourself with reliable information
Kramer, founder of Live UTI Free, says the first step is to educate yourself with reliable information. For example, James Dickenson recommends that women drink plenty of fluids when they begin to experience discomfort or an infection coming on. Some urinary tract irritation or infections can be cleared simply by drinking lots of fluids.
Although D-mannose, cranberry juice and supplements are often talked about when preventing or treating rUTIs, they lack concrete scientific backing and evidence of effectiveness according to Dickenson.
- Antibiotics usage should be considered carefully
Dickenson says, “Many early infections can be defeated by the intrinsic capability of the lining of the urethra and bladder so antibiotics are not needed for many attacks.”
Dickenson recommends sodium citrate, an over the counter urine alkalizing agent that reduces irritation or Pyridium (phenopyridine), a prescription that can be obtained from a physician before antibiotics. Pyridium can relieve symptoms such as pain, burning and urgency to urinate.
Antibiotics have many side effects that can often affect your gut health. Overuse of antibiotics may also cause yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV) over time.
- Find the underlying cause of your UTIs
Monitor your symptoms and take physical or mental notes of when you get them. Does stress, intimacy, diet, birth control or contraceptive, or exercise trigger them?
Severe or chronic UTIs may require proper investigation from medical professionals.
Dickenson says UTIs can often present with similar symptoms and point to a sexually transmitted infection or disease. Other underlying conditions could include an anatomy anomaly or a bladder condition.
Finding the underlying cause or trigger can help you to avoid activities, take preventative measures or receive treatment to prevent UTIs.
- Find a trusted family physician
Be prepared to walk away and find another clinician if you don’t feel your doctor is answering your questions or taking you seriously. Many women, according to Live UTI Free, felt they were being dismissed by their physicians and did not receive the necessary care and support they needed.
Find a family doctor or specialist who has the skills and interest in your condition.
Kramer also recommends having a list or goals you’d like to discuss with your physician prior to your appointment.
- Connect with other rUTI sufferers in the meantime
Those who have suffered from rUTIs understand the toll it takes on their daily life, relationships and mental health. Talk to those around you. It’s highly likely that someone that you know has had a similar experience. Find connections in online groups on social media platforms or seek out patient advocacy groups like Live UTI Free.
Connecting with other rUTI sufferers could give you new ideas or tips and tricks that may work for you. Victoria Ashley says she’s seen a significant decrease in her UTIs after getting a bidet. If you don’t have a bidet a good rinse right after bowel movements or intimacy in the tub also does the trick.
A good thing to remember is that with rUTIs, preventions, solutions and treatments is not always a one-size-fits-all cure. What may work for others may not work for you. Regardless, just getting the reassurance that you’re not alone and that there is hope could uplift your spirits.