A woman named Claire went to her doctor with symptoms of urinary urgency and frequency along with pelvic pain. The symptoms had begun a few months earlier and her first thought was that she had a bladder infection or a UTI. She went to her primary healthcare provider who prescribed her a round of antibiotics. On this first visit, she also underwent the dipstick test for UTI which came positive. After a week of antibiotics, she was still in pain, so she went to the doctor for the second time. This time too her dipstick test was positive but the doctor decided to send the urine sample to the lab. Surprisingly, the sample showed no bacteria. Still Claire’s doctor prescribed a second, more powerful round of antibiotics. Over the next few weeks, Claire’s symptoms eased a bit. However, they did not go away completely. As she was flying frequently on business trips, she spent extended hours sitting. Soon her symptoms returned with a vengeance. When she went to the doctor for the third time, he felt that the improvement was evidence that the meds were working but weren’t strong enough. So he prescribed another round of even more powerful antibiotics. This process went on over a period of 4 to 5 months during which Claire suffered terribly from constant stomach issues thanks to the antibiotics. Finally, the cycle of dysfunction, pain and inflammation escalated to a point where she could hardly sit. It was evident that there was a lot more going on.
Not a UTI-what else could it be?
A traditional UTI is usually easy to detect- you might experience all the symptoms such as frequent urination, bloody and foul smelling urine, pain, fever etc. However, in some cases, UTIs or bladder infections can get rather complicated. The dipstick test at home might show a color change indicating clearly that there is a UTI. You might even start a round of antibiotics hoping your symptoms vanish, but, like in Claire’s case above, they do not. Even a visit to the doctor with description of your symptoms leads him/her to believe that you have a UTI-which would then qualify you for another round of antibiotics. Despite all the medication, you continue feeling worse.
You are not alone; there are thousands of women and men all around the world who have UTI like symptoms but no UTI. The reason for this is: there are many diseases which mimic the symptoms of a UTI. Let us find out which they are….
What Diseases Cause UTI Like Symptoms?
Urethritis is common in males; it is the inflammation of the urethra. The Urethra are tubes that carry urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. Some types of Urethritis are sexually transmitted, though e.coli bacteria (which also cause UTIs)may also be responsible for them. Herpes simplex virus can also lead to Urethritis. Symptoms of urethritis include pain during intercourse, frequent urination, blood in semen or urine, and, in women, discharge from the vagina.
In women, many different types of vaginal infections can lead to UTI like symptoms. The main ones are Candida and Gardnerella etc. Candida is a fungal vaginal infection whereas Gardnerella is caused by bacteria. Symptoms of bacterial Vaginitis or Gardnerella include fishy odor from vagina, white-yellowish discharge, irritation of the vulva, pain during intercourse etc. Treatment is usually antibiotics. Causes of bacterial vaginitis include sexual transmission. Vaginal candidiasis symptoms include itchiness, discharge, pain, burning during urination etc.
Cervicitis or PID
PID is pelvic inflammatory disease and cervicitis is inflammation of the lower end of the cervix that leads to the vagina. STDs like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are the most common reasons behind cervicitis or PID. Symptoms of PID include vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods, irritation, dysuria, etc.
Can you have UTI if there are no bacteria in the Urine?
Nearly 40% of affected women do not have significant bacteria in the urine but they still have all of the UTI symptoms like pain in the pelvis area, frequent urination and so on. Some patients also have white blood cells in the urine. This is a sign of infection or inflammation in the urinary system. STD microbes in diseases like Chlamydia can inflame the urethra and also lead to a UTI. If you do not have either a STD or a UTI, you could have one of the following:
- Chronic interstitial cystitis– This is a pesky infection that is characterized by an inflammation of the lining of the urinary tract. It is difficult to get rid of and even strong antibiotics do not show results. What you can do is continue drinking tons of water and follow basic hygiene practices like peeing after sex, wiping from front to back after bowel movement, using cranberry supplements and eating an alkaline diet.
- Hydronephrosis– This condition affects the kidneys. There may be an obstruction which does not allow all of the urine to come out causing a swelling in the kidneys.
Apart from these conditions you could also, as stated above, suffer from vaginitis, hormonal imbalance etc. All these conditions could give rise to symptoms similar to UTI symptoms.
What to do?
Having a medical issue which does not respond to conventional treatment can be very frustrating. The best thing to do in such a case is use some home remedies as below:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eliminate gluten, sugar and simple carbs from the diet. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Drink cranberry juice (sugar free) or take cranberry extracts/pills.
- Take apple cider vinegar every day (organic only). This reduces inflammation.
- Urinate frequently- do not postpone when you get the urge.
- Practice basic hygiene- use cotton underwear instead of nylon tight fitting thongs. Wipe front to back instead of back to front (for women) after bowel movement. Also pee after sexual intercourse to get rid of bacteria. Avoid use of strong lubricants, vaginal jelly or spermicides which could aggravate the irritation.
- Apply heat packs to eliminate pain in the pelvic region.
Continue seeking medical advice from doctors and if needed, see a specialist. We hope this article helps you get rid of your pain once and for all.