About 60% of women have a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in their lives, and about half of them have recurrent infections.
For the unlucky but insignificant minority, regular infections can turn into a chronic condition. If the infection remains untreated, bacteria can become embedded and can last for months or even years.
UTIs are often dismissed as mild or common infections that are easily managed with over-the-counter medications. However, this caricature does not capture the scale of suffering that can be caused by the condition.
As the documentary I created with two other female filmmakers shows, UTI primarily affects women, causing physical pain and permanent trauma.
It is also a disease that carries a lot of shame and stigma, as it is associated with urinary tract infections and often sexual intercourse. It has the ability to change relationships with a female sexual partner and can do as easy as going to a toilet full of anxiety and pain.
People who are considered “women’s illnesses” and have recurrent and chronic UTIs need to navigate a medical system that is designed to minimize experience and relieve pain on a daily basis.
However, there are some UTI-specific things that make this situation particularly difficult. Most people who experience UTI symptoms go to a GP to analyze urinary infections using a simple dipstick test. The patient is diagnosed and sent with a 3-day prescription for antibiotics.
For some, this works. Not for others. Patients must return to their doctor because short-term medication may not be enough to get rid of the infection, but the symptoms persist. In some cases, the GP finds no evidence of infection and the patient feels empty-handed pain.