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Urology Awareness Month – time to dispel the myths about urinary tract infections

Posted: 27/09/2017

September is Urology Awareness Month and Penningtons Manches LLP is supporting the Urology Foundation’s aim of trying to break down the stigma surrounding urinary conditions. 

Many negligence claims in this area of medicine involve the misdiagnosis of conditions or claims where patients have suffered an injury which has the knock-on effect of causing a urinary condition.

One of the things we often see is the failure to properly diagnose and treat urinary tract infections (UTIs). Given that UTIs affect around 150 million people worldwide each year, it’s a topic that people should not be afraid to talk about.

A recent article in the Guardian published information about what people should know about UTIs. This was helpful in dispelling a range of common myths surrounding these infections. We have noted some of these below:

  • It’s caused by a single rogue bug

It is no longer believed that a UTI is caused by a single rogue bug, but rather occurs where the balance of the microbes in the bladder is upset. There may be a genetic predisposition to these infections – clinicians have found that they often treat members of the same family for recurrent UTIs. 

  • It’s a problem only experienced by women

UTIs can affect both men and women. Men can suffer UTIs as they get older, as a result of prostate problems. 

  • Cranberry juice helps

According to a recent study of 185 women at Yale University, it was found that cranberries had no notable effect on bacteria in urine. Up until this point, it was believed that a compound in the juice prevented bacterial growth in the urine. 

  • Drinking water can help flush infection out of the system  

Many people believe that drinking plenty of water can help flush an infection out of the system. According to Professor James Malone-Lee, all that happens is that your urine becomes diluted and so the concentration of the bacteria decreases. When the diagnostic tests are then carried out by a GP, they come back negative due to the low concentration of bacteria. 

So what are the common symptoms and signs of a UTI?

  • sudden, extreme and frequent urges to pass urine
  • burning, irritation or pain when passing urine
  • a feeling of not being able to empty your bladder fully
  • a feeling of pressure in your abdomen
  • thick or cloudy urine
  • blood in your urine. 

If an infection progresses and is left untreated, the following symptoms can occur:

  • fever
  • pain in the lower part of the back where the kidneys are located
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fatigue 

Testing and concerns

Standard urine culture and dipstick testing is commonly used by GPs to check for a UTI but these tests have been heavily criticised for being too insensitive. This is particularly problematic considering that UTIs can become serious problems if they are mistreated or diagnosed as ‘all clear’ when they are actually still active. While they can be quickly treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early on, they can lead to sepsis. 

Some patients have reported to their doctor with classic symptoms of UTIs but then have not been treated on the basis that their urine test did not reveal an infection. Patients who are experiencing the symptoms above should not be afraid to question their doctors and query whether their urine should be sent off to be tested at a hospital laboratory where investigations tend to be more thorough.

If you, a friend or loved one have concerns about the treatment you have received, please get in touch with our specialist team, who may be able to help.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP