At the age of five or six, Bella knew there was something different about her. Her bladder often hurt and she could not control the urgent need to race to the toilet frequently. This led to 'accidents', unsympathetic teachers, teasing kids and doctors who misunderstood the cause and the severity of her condition. Her unrelenting urinary symptoms had shaped her entire life. In her early 20s, her symptoms had become markedly worse. Newly married and with the encouragement and support of her husband, she flew to the United Kingdom to attend a chronic UTI clinic. To her relief, she was diagnosed and treated for a UTI that had plagued her for her entire life. After five months of constant antibiotic treatment, Bella cannot believe how much her symptoms have reduced and how good she feels for the first time. Now that she is receiving a treatment designed specifically for her condition, she knows she will be fully cured in time. She is looking forward to living a normal life and she is excited that some day she and her husband will start a family—something she feared might never happen. Read Bella's story here.
Dr Nicky Thomas is a Senior Research Fellow at University of South Australia and The Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research, where he works on developing nanomedicines to treat infections that have become resistant to traditional antimicrobial therapies. Among other concerning and challenging chronic bacterial infections, Dr Thomas' team has an interest in improving the delivery and efficacy of antibiotics in people suffering chronic urinary tract infections (UTI).
Carrie had only ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI) once before. When she was 40, her second UTI refused to budge and her life soon became a revolving door of doctors and ER visits. Suffering terrible bladder and urethral pain and becoming increasingly unwell, she battled to hold herself together and manage her day-to-day life with three small children. Carrie knew her original infection had never fully cleared and it had become an infection like no other. She researched until came across a different form of testing and a doctor in the United States who was prepared to see past the negative culture tests and treat her for a chronic, embedded UTI. She is now close to being symptom-free and is back to living life as a happy, busy wife and mother. Read how Carrie fought her way back to good health.
Naomi is a young Canadian woman who experienced her first UTI at the age of 19. Following typical antibiotic treatment, she was left with vague UTI symptoms that became an unwelcome daily companion. Within the following year, her symptoms gradually escalated into bi-monthly acute UTI attacks. Naomi's doctor found an antibiotic solution that quickly brought her infections under control, but she was unsure how to stop the recurrent UTIs from striking at random and dominating her life. While being treated by a popular Calgary acupuncturist for unrelated back pain, the practitioner suggested acupuncture might help her recurrent UTIs as well. Naomi, now aged 29, felt she had nothing to lose and started acupuncture treatment targeting her urinary tract in January 2019. She reports she has not had an acute UTI, or required antibiotics, in almost a year. You can read more about Naomi's acupuncture experience here.
Elle suffered chronic pelvic pain. By the time she was 25, investigations left her with diagnoses of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stage III endometriosis, general anxiety disorder and interstitial cystitis (IC). Even though she had never noticed bladder symptoms during this time, she was treated daily with Elmiron. Two years into her treatment, like a bolt from the blue she woke to crippling, stabbing bladder pain, abdominal pain, bladder burning and frequent, urgent urination. These symptoms never left and she had nowhere to turn. Since she was never convinced of her original IC diagnosis, she started to research other possibilities. Being in Canada, she was able to access a more sophisticated urine test and a practitioner who has a history of successfully treating patients with low grade, chronic bladder infections. After eight months of treatment targeting her infection, she says she is well on her way to being healed. You can read more of Elle’s story here.
Mark’s bladder problems began when he was only four. By the time he was a young adult, an anatomical cause had been identified and surgically corrected, resulting in a new lifestyle of daily self-catherisation. This is when the constant UTIs began. For the next 14 years, Mark suffered intermittent and back-to-back UTIs, some testing positive, others not. He was treated with combinations of short-course and low-dose antibiotics, but his infection returned within days of completing each course. In his late 30s, Mark’s infection spread and he knew more of the same short-course, low-dose antibiotic treatments would never release him from the ongoing cycle of pain and suffering. He knew it was time to search for a doctor who was prepared to treat his embedded UTI differently. Read more about Mark’s incredible journey.
While on summer holidays, a simple UTI was the start of a horrid year of illness, pain and anxiety for British woman, Clare. Short-courses of antibiotics quickly cleared her UTI symptoms, but they returned each time. Repeat dipsticks and culture tests confused her doctors because they were unable to confirm an infection was present. Being a nurse practitioner and understanding her symptoms and her own body, she knew an infection was what she was dealing with. Clare was referred through the healthcare system, had the usual tests and was offered many of the standard treatments for managing her symptoms. Before embarking on this route, she found a specialist with the expert knowledge to diagnose her condition and treat the infection that had become embedded in her bladder. This is Clare's story.
To be diagnosed with a chronic UTI in Australia is no mean feat. Chronic UTI is a largely unrecognised and misunderstood condition. It is common for people with these chronic infections (who are predominantly women) to be referred through the medical system—sometimes for years and even decades. They see numerous specialists and have multiple tests, often walking away with a urinary syndrome diagnosis. Ongoing symptoms and pain management is usually the best that can be offered. For these people, the future can be bleak. This month we talk to five Australian women who have long-suffering UTI histories of between one and 35 years. Through their perseverance, each of these women found their way off the medical merry-go-round and were finally diagnosed and properly treated for a chronic UTI. Read more to find out how they reclaimed their lives and found their way back to health.
Alison was in her mid-20s when she was struck with her first UTI. A standard three-day antibiotic treatment cleared her symptoms, but they returned soon after ... and were much more serious. Unbeknown to her, Alison's bladder infection had ascended to her kidneys and had become life-threatening. With little forewarning, she was hospitalised numerous times with sudden acute attacks of pyelonephritis and sepsis. Each stint in hospital meant weeks of recovery time at home. Alison's mum knew it was not normal for a young, active woman to have become so suddenly vulnerable and seriously ill. Through a GP friend, she learnt about a UTI specialist in London and booked an appointment for her daughter immediately. Alison and her mother are both sharing their compelling story.