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).
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.
In 2008 America went to the doctor for a urinary tract infection (UTI). She was treated, but her infection came back after each course of treatment. This went on for several months. Her confused doctor referred her to a urologist, where she was diagnosed at the first appointment with interstitial cystitis (IC). For five years she was treated with a cocktail of medication to help manage her symptoms, but this did little more than take the edge of her pain and caused woeful side effects. America chanced upon information about a UTI specialist in the United Kingdom who specifically treats people like her who have been diagnosed with urinary syndromes and recurrent UTIs. America decided she had nothing to lose and set off across the Atlantic for a consultation. With the approval of her new doctor, she stopped her IC medication and started her new treatment. Ten months in, she claims to feel the best she has in 10 years. She still has some symptoms, but only rarely notices them. After a decade of pain, despair and depression, fighting off symptoms and dealing with significant medication side-effects, she now feels she can refocus on her work, her relationship with her husband and children and her future. America's thrilled to have her life back on track.
At the age of 28, Angie has suffered post-coital urinary tract infections (UTIs) for her entire 20s. Following an investigative cystoscopy to find the cause, her situation took a dramatic turn for the worse. She went from suffering UTI symptoms only after sex, to suffering them constantly. Since dipsticks and cultures no longer showed the infection, she was petrified the diagnosis of an 'incurable urinary syndrome' was looming. Angie begged for a referral to a specialist UTI clinic in London for a second opinion where she was swiftly diagnosed with a chronic bladder infection. After five years of antibiotic treatment, Angie's life has much improved from her desperate earlier years, but her embedded infection remains stubborn and difficult to fully shift. Find out more about Angie's journey.
Áine started experiencing recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) at the age of 12. As she grew older, her recurrent UTIs became more frequent. She always responded to antibiotic treatment, but sometimes she would need a repeat course to fully clear her symptoms. In her early 30s, she came down with UTI that didn't clear up with the usual treatment. After a year of suffering persistent and painful UTI symptoms, she was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis (IC) and advised to try and manage her symptoms through diet changes. Another year on, Áine discovered her diagnosis had been wrong and was diagnosed with a chronic UTI and endometriosis. After being prescribed appropriate antibiotic treatment targeting her embedded infection, and having a laparoscopic excision of the endometriosis, she fully recovered in 12 months.
Sarah is an American woman whose UTI problems started in her teens. Antibiotics worked well at the beginning, but overtime the infections persisted and the treatment no longer worked as it once did. When her UTI tests started to show negative for infection, her doctors offered medication for her building anxiety instead. A urogynaecologist was able to keep her symptoms under control, but strong side effects from the medication left her feeling awful. Looking for a more natural solution to her bladder symptoms, she found a new healthy lifestyle offered more than just relief from her relentless bladder symptoms. Not only was she noticing her bladder feeling better, she was feeling better all over. Read more about Sarah's recovery here.
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.