Let’s take a look at what it really takes to beat urinary tract infections

Every year, an average of 4 million women in the UK suffer from cystitis. This common urinary tract infection (UTI) leads to symptoms such as bladder pain and a burning sensation when passing urine. Although it may not sound like the most debilitating of issues, cystitis can actually be incredibly uncomfortable. Worldwide it is estimated that more than 150 million people are affected every year.

Yet despite how common the condition is, information on how to accurately diagnose and treat a UTI has been limited. Misdiagnosis is common, and many women turn to household remedies like cranberry juice for results. But is this really the most effective way to beat a UTI and, if not, what should you be doing to treat cystitis for good?

Does cystitis only affect women?

Speaking about the male to female ratio of UTI patients, Professor James Malone-Lee, who runs a specialist clinic for chronic UTIs in London, says: “They are more common in women. There’s a peak when women become sexually active, and then a further increase in later life.”

In fact, statistics reveal that one third of women develop a UTI before the age of 24, and 10% do so before they turn 16. However, this doesn’t mean UTIs only affect women. Men can develop UTIs as a result of prostate problems.

Prof Malone-Lee says: “I’m a bit suspicious that UTIs get overlooked in men, across all age ranges.”

How do urinary tract infections develop?

The most common belief is that UTIs are caused by a single bug invading the bladder, although there is some challenge against this as even a healthy bladder isn’t sterile. Studies have discovered more than 450 different bacteria in a healthy bladder, compared to 600 bacteria in UTI sufferers.

There is also some evidence that an element of genetic susceptibility plays a part in UTIs, as they often run in families.

How serious is cystitis?

Typically, a short course of medication can treat cystitis effectively. However, for 20-30% of patients the effects can be more long term. Infections which are left unchecked can progress into a condition known as pyelonephritis, which requires hospital admission. Pyelonephritis is a severe urine infection involving the kidneys which can lead to sickness, high temperatures, vomiting and pain. If pyelonephritis isn’t brought under control, it can develop into septicaemia, which is life-threatening.

Does cranberry juice actually help?

For many years, cranberry juice has been the first port of call for people suffering from cystitis. The idea behind this is that proanthocyanidin – a compound found in cranberries – is able to inhibit bacterial growth in the urinary tract.

However, research from Yale University suggests that this is an urban myth. The study looked at 185 women living in nursing homes over the course of the year, and found that cranberries had no significant effect on bacteria in urine.

There is also little evidence to suggest that drinking water helps beat UTIs, despite this being a common piece of advice shared by GPs. The bacteria responsible for cystitis are often found inside the cells of bacteria or are attached to cells via a glue-like substance. This means that they can’t be washed out. Water only dilutes the urine, which can create the illusion that the patient has been cured as diagnostic tests come back negative.

What treatments are available?

So if cranberry juice isn’t effective, what should you be using instead to treat cystitis? The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is cystitis medication.

MacroBID (Nitrofurantoin) is an antibiotic medication used to treat and prevent infections of the kidneys, bladder and other parts of the urinary tract. This prolonged release capsule should be taken as a 3-day course at meal times with food, in order to provide the best chances of beating a UTI. MacroBID (Nitrofurantoin) is available from Express Pharmacy.

For effective treatment against urinary tract infections, visit Express Pharmacy. You can also contact us for help and advice by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our discreet Live Chat service.