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Urinary concerns do not end with a diagnosis of diabetes. A new vaccine to prevent UTI could be a big benefit for women with diabetes.

Repeatedly we here at IDS share information on women’s health issues and mention the distinct lack of research, knowledge, and knowledgeable treatment of women’s health issues in people with diabetes.

A common health struggle for women with diabetes is reoccurring UTIs (urinary tract infections) This is basic supply and demand. Bacteria feed on glucose, and women with diabetes are more likely to excrete glucose in their urine. Combine that with the structural design of female anatomy that leaves women at higher risk of UTI than men, and it is a recipe for women with diabetes suffering from insufficient care.

However, a clinical study out of Spain of a sublingual vaccination of inactive whole bacteria that cause the most common UTIs has shown dramatic results. The pineapple-flavored spray administered with two sprays under the tongue daily for 3 months has been used off-label in Europe for years.

A recent 9-year follow-up study showed that in a population of 89 patients (72 women and 17 men) ages 18-87 with a history of reoccurring UTI. 54% of participants remained UTI-free for the full 9-year follow-up. The average results were 4.5 years without UTI reoccurrence with no reports of adverse effects.

UTIThis could present a huge breakthrough in how UTIs are approached, particularly in women’s health. In a time when antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections are still on the rise, reducing overuse of antibiotics is key. Since 30% of UTI infections prove to be resistant to or insufficiently controlled by standard antibiotic treatment measures.

While UTIs may seem like a trivial ailment or inconvenience to some, they can prove fatal with urosepsis and renal damage and failure being possible complications. People with diabetes are at especially elevated risk as UTIs are notorious for causing blood sugars to spike, this then causes the infection to become more severe, harder to treat and cure, and more likely to spread to bladder and kidney infections. In a population where renal health is already a health concern, this is an unacceptable risk increase.

It is encouraging to see safe effective preventative care for UTIs beyond the standard “Keep blood sugars in range” that we have all been told in the past, as if the price we must pay for imperfection is infection!

Until we see Uromune receive licensing in the EU and the UK, and eventually in the US, a few tips to remember to reduce your risks of UTI and get more effective treatment.

How to reduce your risks of getting a UTI

  • Bathroom hygiene. Remember to always keep fecal bacteria away from the rest of one’s genital area. “Wipe from front to back” is key advice for both men and women to reduce risks for genital and UTI infections.
  • Practice safe sex hygiene. Using condoms during sex, staying STI-free, and avoiding irritation of the urethra help reduce UTI risks.
  • Avoid soapy soaks. A common cause of UTIs for women, young girls, and also for uncircumcised young boys is bubble baths. Soaps are designed to break down oils and are caustic to the skin. Added fragrances, colors, and chemicals are also highly irritating. Especially if not well rinsed this is the leading cause of UTI.

What do I do if I get a UTI and have diabetes?

If you get a UTI and have diabetes talk with your doctor about the complicated factors of UTI treatment. UTIs often need more than a standard 10-day round of antibiotics for people with diabetes, because we are feeding the same bacteria we are trying to kill, while blood sugars are being driven higher, by the infection, a difficult cycle.

I too often see patients who have a UTI treated and finish their antibiotic, but their blood sugars remain high and hard to control. I tell them to go back to their doctor and they are dismissed as they are not having symptoms. Fast forward a week or two and the symptoms are back, the blood sugars are STILL high, and the infection is back and worse than it was the first time.

This pattern can go on and on for month after month if the infection is not fully and properly treated the first time. Any infection that does not respond to treatment with a major reduction in symptoms (including blood sugars) after about 4 days of antibiotic treatment should be followed up with a “culture and sensitivity” urine screening to identify the exact pathogen causing the infection and what antibiotic treatment will best cure it.

What do I do if I have more than one UTI in a year?

If you have more than one UTI in a year talk to your doctor about investigating whether you may be “colonized”. Some people carry bacteria naturally in their urinary tract that can cause a UTI and if these bacterial colonies get a little out of balance numbers escalate and they get repeated infections. A prophylactic low-dose antibiotic may be able to prevent future infections.

How do I treat a UTI at home?

Don’t try to “treat” a UTI at home. Cranberry juice does not cure UTI, it simply flushes out the bacteria present. It may get the numbers low enough that you’re not having symptoms, but the infection is still there waiting to come right back. And Azo or Pyridium tablets do nothing to treat the infection, they simply numb the urinary tract, so the symptoms are more comfortable.

As people with diabetes a UTI is an infection where we are fighting on two fronts at the same time. Antibiotics are the best tool we have for now until preventative medicine offers us another solution.

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