Intimate Wellness Institute

What is a chronic UTI and how does it develop?

While it is true that the majority of uncomplicated, acute urinary tract infections get better within days – often with a relatively short course of antibiotics, some do not respond to short courses and go on to cause constant, ongoing symptoms for patients.

There is a dangerous misconception that UTIs, while unpleasant, are always short-lived and easily treatable. Taking short courses of antibiotics that fail to completely get rid of an infection is one route by which an acute UTI can develop into a long-term problem. Women are often told their symptoms are caused by unexplained inflammation, psychosomatic pain, or stress rather than a bacterial infection. This can mean no effective treatment is given. If chronic UTIs are not treated they can cause kidney damage and lead to sepsis (bacteria in the blood) which can be life threatening.

How does a UTI become chronic?

UTIs become long-term, or chronic when bacteria in the urine embed themselves into the lining of the bladder wall where antibiotics and immune cells cannot easily reach them. They can cause constant inflammation in the bladder, but they do not always show in current urine tests. The bladder wall sheds approximately every 90 days and although the infection can seem to have gone away, it can flare up again days, weeks or even months later. Over time, changes to the tissue in the bladder wall make the infection even harder to treat.

Some bacteria which cause UTIs have become resistant to the first-choice antibiotics that are routinely prescribed. As antibiotic resistance around the world increases, the number of antibiotic resistant UTIs is likely to increase too and the problem of chronic UTI is likely to get worse.

Early intervention is key to preventing chronic UTI

Urinary tract infections accounts for 70 million primary care appointments every year. Even for simple infections, rates of recurrence are high:

  • Around 20-30% of patients don’t get better with initial antibiotic treatment
  • Up to 70% experience another UTI within a year.
  • Negative dipstick tests and mid-stream specimens of urines and the failure of short courses of antibiotics are for many persistent UTI sufferers the first step to a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis, painful bladder syndrome, urethral syndrome, or overactive bladder.
  • Dipsticks detect only 40% of chronic infections (1, 2) and the MSU culture misses 90% of chronic infections (1, 2).
  • Burgeoning evidence suggests chronic lower urinary tract infections are caused by untreated bacterial infections – not always other inflammation.

IWI Chronic UTI Regimen:  At the Intimate Wellness Institute we recognize the negative impact of chronic UTIs on women’s quality of life and the risks chronic UTIs pose to long-term health. We use the latest technology to acurately diagnose, treat, and prevent recurrence of chronic UTIs.

  • Diagnosis: The IWI team will carefully review your history, urine cultures, and perform a physical exam to identify any contributing factors to the UTIs. Bladder function testing (urodynamics) and a look in the bladder (cystoscopy) with a small flexible scope may be performed to identify any functional or physical causes for the chronic UTI. Your urine will also be sent for specialized testing including DNA analysis to identify the specific bacteria accurately and help determine the best treatment.
  • Treatment: the  IWI treatment of chronic UTIs does not involve just repeating antibiotics over and over again. Once the underlying causes of the infection are identified they will be corrected. Common causes are urinary retention, pelvic organ prolapse, bowel issues and atrophy or thinning of the vaginal tissues that make infections easier to contract. If the infection is deep in the tissue up to 1 month of antibiotics may be needed.
  • Prevention: IWI has the most advanced prevention program for chronic UTIs available. The underlying cause must be eliminated.  Once that is accomplished a variety of medications and specialized supplements can be used to help prevent bacteria from re-growing in the bladder. The IWI team will review all preventive measures including hygiene, medications, washes or other habits that may be contributing to the chronic UTIs. Improving menopausal changes to the vaginal tissue is also critical for prevention.  IWI has revolutionary treatments using bioidentical hormones, laser and radiofrequency vaginal rejuvenation to improve the tissue and help prevent infections.

Chronic UTIs and Biofilms

Biofilms are a collection of bacteria that can form a mucus like layer on the surface of tissue. There is growing evidence that biofilm formation is a significant cause or chronic bladder and vaginal infections. Biofilms are resistant to antibiotic treatment. IWI is the only practice in the region that has gentle resurfacing lasers and radiofrequency devices that can disrupt the biofilm to allow successful antibiotic treatment.      

Chronic UTIs and voiding dysfunction

Up to 10% of adult women do not empty their bladder well. Retaining urine in the bladder will lead to chronic infections as the bacteria have time to grow. IWI has specialized treatment options including advanced physical therapy, Emsella, neuromodulation and advanced injections to improve bladder emptying.