By Andrew M. Seaman
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who get recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) may be more likely to have an overly sensitive bladder, even at times when they don't have an infection, a new study suggests.
Pennsylvania researchers found that women who had had at least three UTIs in the past year were significantly more likely to urinate frequently, in smaller amounts, and to feel the need to urinate more often than women without a history of recurring infection.
The symptoms could point to sensitization of the bladder itself, brought on by infections, the team writes in the British Journal of Urology International.
Lead author Dr. Lily Arya, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, told Reuters Health that the findings highlight why women should get treatment for UTIs as soon as possible.
"If they are having repeated attacks of bladder infection, which is more than three a year, they probably need to be seen by a specialist," said Arya. "They should be treating them ASAP and not be casual about doing that."
Using medical records and bathroom diaries, Arya and her colleagues compared 102 premenopausal women who were treated at the university's urogynecology clinic between December 2009 and September 2010.
The researchers determined that the women with recurring UTIs went to the bathroom 12 times over a 24-hour period, whereas those without a history of recurring infection went about seven times in the same period.
Compared to the women without frequent infections, those suffering from frequent UTIs also went to the bathroom significantly more often for every liter of liquid they drank.
Medical tests to gauge the urge to urinate showed women with frequent infections also felt the need to go to the bathroom sooner than the others.
According to the researchers, the cause of this oversensitivity is not known, but they suspect it could be related to nerves in the bladder, which might undergo lasting changes as a result of repeated pain and inflammation during infections.
Dr. Kenneth Peters, chair of urology at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and who was not involved with the study, said the research looks like it had some limitations, but the results match what he's seen.
"I think the one thing to know for certain is that if you have symptoms of urgency or frequency ... it's very important to get a urine culture to find out if you have an infection or not," Peters said.
Arya said she tries not to delay treatment in her patients who have frequent UTIs, and gives them antibiotics to keep at home in case they experience early symptoms. However, she said this should only be done after a medical workup and under a doctor's supervision.
For women with overactive bladder, Peters said there are several treatment options, including acupuncture, medication and a surgically implanted device.
Women should know there are options to help, he said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/rtlq5Q British Journal of Urology International, online November 30, 2011.