Study Calls For More Limited and Targeted Antibiotic Use In Treating Women’s UTIs

Roughly half of all women will get a urinary tract infection (UTI), and most think antibiotics are not the best solution to treating them, according to the findings of a new study.

Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles led six focus groups asking female participants what they knew about UTIs, prevention methods, treatment and the impact on their quality of life. According to the findings, which will be published in the September issue of the Journal of Urology, the majority of women felt they were not getting help with prevention for UTIs from doctors.

Women often felt the impact of UTIs on their lives are more profound than doctors acknowledged, according to the findings. They expressed a need for more research on non-antibiotic options to treat UTIs.

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Most women in the groups were fearful and frustrated concerning the topic. One participant said it had taken four or five months to get back to normal after suffering an infection and taking antibiotics for the infection. She said her body and her mind suffered.

Many women said they had been given antibiotics to treat their condition, when they had a different health issue, such as overactive bladder. Some patients developed C. difficile bacteria, an antibiotic-resistant infection known to develop with the overuse of antibiotics.

Women in the focus groups were also aware of the risks of developing antibiotic resistant infections after taking antibiotics.

The female urethra is much shorter than the male’s, thus it is easier for bacteria to get into the bladder, leading to UTIs. It is common for women to get UTIs during and after menopause, as well as when a woman becomes sexually active.

Most women don’t have a specific anatomic or physiologic issue that can be addressed to prevent or treat UTIs. Antibiotics tend to be the most effective treatment option; however, about 40% of UTIs can be cleared by using only Advil to treat the symptoms of pain and discomfort.

A previous study indicated antibiotics are prescribed for “no good reason” up to 45% of the time. However, some women face an increased risk of developing a kidney infection if the UTI is not treated with antibiotics.

It can be difficult to tell who needs what treatment. A urine culture can take three to five days, but a urine analysis can be completed quickly. It won’t confirm a UTI, but can point to markers in the urine that may suggest there is one present.

The researchers determined new strategies are needed to help focus and limit antibiotic use among women with UTIs.

Currently, alternative treatments include cranberry supplements, antiseptic medications, probiotics and vitamin C. However, the researchers found a lack of data on the efficacy of those treatments. Yet, the best prevention methods continue to be staying hydrated, and focusing on methods to reduce constipation and diarrhea.

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