National Survey Uncovers Widespread Misconceptions About Urinary Tract Infections


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 and at, 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

age. (3)

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

Pharmaceuticals Corporation.


(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

Diseases. 1995.

Source: National Women's Health Resource Center

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