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UTI tests fail 50% of the time in detecting bacterial infections

Urinary tract infection

(NaturalNews) Modern screening tests fail to detect urinary tract infections (UTIs) half the time, new studies have revealed.

This contributes to a problem in which patients with UTIs go undiagnosed and untreated, or are instead diagnosed with psychological or "unexplained" physical health problems and subjected to a battery of painful and ineffective treatments.

Approximately one-third of women under age 24 experience UTIs at some point. The incidence of UTIs increases for both women and men as they age.

A wide variety of natural remedies exist to help prevent and treat UTIs, including cranberry juice, herbal remedies such as Echinacea, goldenseal or pau d'arco, and even colloidal silver. If natural remedies fail, the typical course of treatment is antibiotics to prevent infection of the bladder or kidneys.

Doctors still using tests from the 1950s

Most UTIs clear up within a few days of antibiotic treatments, but as many as 30 percent can persist after antibiotics are completed. It is this 30 percent that place people at highest risk of developing chronic, undiagnosed UTIs.

The standard test for UTIs, developed in the 1950s, consists of a dipstick or urine culture. But recent studies show that dipsticks detect just 50 percent of UTIs.

Cultures have their shortcomings, as well. Traditionally, doctors have believed that a strong growth of a single disease-causing bacteria, such as E. coli, indicates a UTI. But modern research has shown that UTIs can also be caused by a mixture of bacterial strains simultaneously, and that many UTI-causing strains do not reproduce effectively in the cultures used.

An undiagnosed UTI can have serious consequences, even if it doesn't move into the bladder or kidneys. Patients not only must endure constant uncomfortable and painful sensations such as burning during urination, they risk being diagnosed with a condition called interstitial cystitis (IC), painful bladder syndrome, or urethral syndrome. According to the British National Health Service's website NHS Choices, this condition is "poorly understood," its exact cause is not clear" and "there is no cure."

In other words, it's a fancy way of saying "we don't know what's wrong and there's nothing we can do."

Not that this stops doctors from trying. A wide variety of invasive and painful techniques are commonly used to try and treat IC, including probing and stretching of the bladder. Patients often end up prescribed painkillers and antidepressants just to help them cope with their chronic symptoms.

Chronic UTI sufferers who are not diagnosed with IC instead run the risk of being diagnosed with a psychiatric illness.

"Too reliant on tests"

Penaran Higgs was one woman who suffered from a chronic, undiagnosed UTI for months, whose symptoms did not clear up after a course of antibiotics for a UTI.

"It got rid of the stinging but I still had severe abdominal pain and the feeling that I desperately needed the loo all the time," she said.

But when Higgs returned to the doctor, she was just given another three-day antibiotic course. A dipstick test turned up no UTI. There was no change in her symptoms.

For the next six months, Higgs underwent a battery of tests, including an ultrasound, a cytoscopy (probe), and having her bladder filled with water.

"It was hideous," she said. "But it didn't show anything."

"The GP was dismissing me and saying it was all in my head. Eventually they sent me to a psychiatrist," she said. "He basically said: 'You're quite anxious. You've regressed back to being a baby.' That was terrifying to hear."

Finally, however, Higgs found a London clinic on the cutting edge of UTI treatment.

"We have become too reliant on tests and imagine wrongly they can give us clear yes or no answers to ease our doubts. They cannot," said James Malone-Lee, head of the clinic at Whittington Hospital.

"We should get back to the old clinical bedside skills."

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