Why did my UTI go undetected for so long? Every time I went to the doctor to get a urine sample it was either taken in the late morning or afternoon, after I had already drank a lot of water and cranberry juice to flush out the bacteria. My tests always came back negative. It is now understood that urinary tract infections can go undetected by the tests if the bacteria level is below the threshold, which was exactly what was happening in my case. I didn’t know that at the time, but I still felt that something was wrong. I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis (IC), a painful bladder syndrome that is not well understood. I was put on medicine to help ease IC symptoms, with no relief. I had an extremely painful cystoscopy performed where a doctor inserts a tiny tube inside your urethra to look for lesions on the bladder. But everything looked fine. The doctors were as perplexed as I was.
I saw another urologist who suggested I take uribel for my bladder spasms. It became my saving grace and a dangerous psychological addiction. Uribel is an anti-bacterial and anti-spasmodic pill for bladder relief. The main ingredient is methenamine, a very unique antibiotic. When methenamine enters the bladder it is converted to formaldehyde in the presence of acidic urine. Formaldehyde is a very strong anti-bacterial and makes methenamine a good antibiotic to work with because the bacteria interacts with formaldehyde so resistance to methenamine is extremely low. However, formaldehyde does have known carcinogenic (cancer-causing) properties, so I do NOT recommend using Uribel. Uribel became dangerous for me because I believed it didn’t have any negative side effects, besides turning my urine slightly blue (due to the dye in the pill). I would take uribel even before my bladder symptoms presented and it became a vicious cycle. I never actually knew if I was going to get bladder symptoms, but would take the Uribel anyways to avoid the pain I had endured for so long.
Finally, last December I went to the doctor early in the morning before I had urinated. They took a urine specimen that was cloudy and the result came back positive for a UTI. I was prescribed antibiotics, which I really hated to take because of my fear of antibiotic resistance, but my symptoms that I had had for almost a year cleared up within 3 days of taking the antibiotic (I still took my full course for 7 days to make sure the bacteria cleared out as recommended by my doctor. Do not discontinue your course of antibiotics, even if your symptoms clear up as this is what promotes antibiotic resistance). My urine no longer smelled and I was virtually pain-free! I was convinced that I didn’t have interstitial cystitis. However, after a month of being pain-free, the spasms began to return. I was very hesitant to take antibiotics again and wanted to prevent another UTI if I could so I did some research online. What modifications did I make that have left me UTI-free? Find out in my next post on UTI prevention tomorrow!