I recently came across a 2005 article published in "Reviews in Urology," titled Practical Management of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections in Premenopausal Women. The article is a review of past and present treatments for recurrent urinary tract infections, or bladder infections as they are commonly called.
The author, Dr. Nickel, noted that women in the 18th century, who didn't have access to antibiotics of course, were sick for about four weeks, and once they recovered they did not seem to suffer recurrent bladder infections. He asks whether the modern dependence on antibiotics has actually created recurrent UT infections.
Modern treatment for recurrent bladder infections does depend on antibiotics. Women with recurrent infections are prescribed larger doses for a longer time, or they are given refillable prescriptions so they can take a three-day course of antibiotics whenever they feel an infection beginning. Some women are prescribed low doses of antibiotics to take over a long period of time, six months or more.
Of course, antibiotics aren't perfect. Overuse of antibiotics leads to drug-resistant superbugs. Women who take a lot of antibiotics often develop yeast infections, which can be nearly as miserable as a bladder infection. And, Dr. Nickel points out, once a woman quits taking the antibiotics, she goes back to having recurrent bladder infections. For those without prescription insurance, the cost may be too high, also.
So why not suffer through the infection and allow your immune system to defeat the bacteria and develop antibodies so that you will likely not have another infection? Well the obvious answer is that bladder infections are very painful and inconvenient. I imagine most women don't want to suffer the infection that long, even if it could possibly prevent future infections.Another risk of just riding it out is that the infection could travel to the kidneys, and kidney infections are very serious indeed.
But, I wonder whether it might not be wiser to endure the infection, taking a medication that controls the pain and drinking lots of water and cranberry juice. As a person who has suffered in the past from recurrent bladder infections, I think I'm willing to try it. I think anyone who tried would have to have the cooperation of her doctor, who could prescribe the pain medication, and she would have to watch carefully for signs of a kidney infection. Or, have we come to the point where we don't really trust our immune systems any more?
Of course, I'm talking about ordinary bladder infections, usually caused by E. coli from the digestive system. I think more serious problems like kidney infection or interstitial cystitis need more serious treatment. If you are a woman with recurrent UTIs, I'd like to hear from you -- what do you think about the points brought up in this article? The link is here.