Chronic urinary tract infection

Infections in the urinary tract and bladder are amongst the most common diseases of the genital area in women. Men are affected too, even though it is less common. More than half of all women have at least one urinary tract infection during their lifetime and many have more than one.

It is also quite common to have recurring infections. Urinary tract infections that occur frequently and with short intervals are generally known as chronic urinary tract infections.

What is meant by chronic or recurring infections?
Chronic urinary tract infection as a term is mostly used to describe infections that recur within a short period of time. Recurring infections refer to a phenomenon that is similar to chronic infections, i.e. that symptoms occur rather frequently.

Recurring/chronic infections are usually described as at least two urinary tract infections within six months or three infections within a year.

How common?
How common are recurring or chronic urinary tract infections? The question is not easy to answer, but there are some figures that can give us an idea.

It is estimated that around 10% of all UK women over 18 are treated for at least one urinary tract infections each year. A large part of them are treated for more than one infection per year. Between 30 and 50% of women in this group are treated for more than one urinary tract infection per year.

Younger women and postmenopausal women are more frequently affected by urinary tract infections than other women, and they suffer more often from recurring symptoms.

Special measures
If a person experiences recurring infections, extra measures may be required to control the symptoms.

  • An infection can be treated with antibiotics to shorten the healing time and to mitigate symptoms. However, when several treatments are required at short intervals, there may be a risk of antibiotic resistance. In order to reduce the risk of bacteria becoming resistant, different types of antibiotics are used.
  • People experiencing recurring symptoms often learn to recognise the symptoms and can get antibiotics in advance. They can start the treatment on their own when they get another infection. Under certain circumstances, antibiotics can be prescribed for preventive treatment.
  • When a person is affected by recurring infections, further examination is advisable. Doctors often examine the bladder and urinary tract in order to check that their function is intact and that there are no obstacles increasing the risk of infection. Examinations are generally combined with further tests and culture tests to find the cause of the issue.
  • In elderly people, especially elderly women, recurring infections may be due to gynaecological reasons. A common example is dry vaginal mucous membranes, resulting from low levels of oestrogen. This kind of problem can be solved by using topical oestrogen preparations.