RED BANK, N.J. -- A national survey of 400 women
who have experienced uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) revealed
numerous misconceptions about the risk factors and treatment options for this
common, often misunderstood health issue. The survey was conducted by the
National Women's Health Resource Center with Wirthlin Worldwide.
More than 85 percent of women surveyed did not realize that sexual
activity is a primary risk factor for UTIs, apparently unaware that simple
precautions -- such as using a birth control method other than diaphragms or
condoms with spermicide -- can help prevent a UTI. On the other hand, the
survey showed that once the women developed a UTI, more than half reported
that they abstained from sex. (Previously published studies have supported
this finding, showing that women abstain from sexual activity for more than a
week, (1) probably due to the discomfort caused by a UTI.) One-fifth (22
percent) of women also said they stopped participating in athletic activities
when they had a UTI.
"Women needlessly compromise their lifestyles when they do not know how to
prevent or treat a UTI," said Amy Niles, president and CEO of the National Women's
Health Resource Center. "Today's active women need resources that will allow
them to take charge of their health. Their time and energy needs to be
protected, not lost to a common, usually avoidable and easily treated
Of the women surveyed, 75 percent did not realize that bacteria in the
urinary tract or bladder could cause an infection. Additionally, more than
one-third (34 percent) would like to treat a UTI by using an over-the-counter
medication, indicating that many patients do not understand that a
prescription antibiotic is the only treatment that can cure a bacterial
infection. Treatment regimens that take as little as three days are
"Many women suffer unnecessarily because they do not realize how easy a
urinary tract infection can be diagnosed and cured with a single office
visit," said Dr. Richard Colgan, assistant professor at the University of
Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and Medical Director, Department of
Family Medicine. "To avoid preventable problems in their busy lives, women
should talk to their healthcare providers about the risk factors, simple
lifestyle changes and short-course treatment options that can help them
quickly and effectively treat the problem."
Information about UTIs, including facts to know, frequently asked
questions and questions to ask your doctor, is available at the National
Women's Health Resource Center Web site at http://www.healthywomen.org and at
http://www.AllAboutUTI.com, an educational Web site designed to help patients
understand their condition.
"The survey findings clearly show a need for educational resources on
urinary tract infections," Niles added. "We hope women use the information
on these sites to facilitate dialogue with their healthcare providers."
Four hundred female respondents between the ages of 18 and 45 were
interviewed between Nov. 11, 2003 and Dec. 1, 2003. Each
respondent met the following qualifications:
* Female between the ages of 18 and 45
* Experienced at least one uncomplicated UTI, bladder infection or
cystitis in the past 6 months (initially). (During the first few days
of interviewing, it was realized that this qualification needed to be
adjusted. After 44 interviews, this was changed to "past 5 years.")
The average interview length was approximately eight to 10 minutes.
UTIs pose a potentially serious health problem that affects millions of
people each year. Infections of the urinary tract are very common -- only
respiratory infections occur more frequently, according to the National
Institutes of Health. UTIs account for more than 8 million doctor visits
annually. (2) Women are especially prone to UTIs and their risk increases with
An uncomplicated UTI is usually a bladder infection that is caused by
bacteria that enter the urethra and travel up the urinary tract. Patients who
have an uncomplicated UTI generally do not have structural problems or
obstructions within the urinary tract. Left untreated, the bacteria can
spread and the condition can become more serious. UTIs can also be called
acute uncomplicated cystitis or bladder infections. (2)
The National Women's Health Resource Center is the nation's leading
independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to educating women of all ages
about health and wellness issues.
This survey was supported by an educational grant from Bayer
(1) Colgan R, Keating K, Dougouih M, "Survey of Symptom Burden in
Women with Uncomplicated Urinary Tract Infections." Clin Drug
Invest. 2003: 24(1):1
(2) Foxman B. Epidemiology of urinary tract infections: Incidence,
Morbidity, and Economic Costs. The American Journal of Medicine.
July 2002; 113(1A):5S-13S.
(3) Sobel JD, Kaye D. In: Principles and Practice of Infectious
Source: National Women's Health Resource Center