Confusion around UTIs sees worried women mistaking symptoms

Chennai: Uncertainty and confusion around the symptoms of common Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) is causing people to mistake them for other conditions. In some cases the confusion leads to worries over cancer, diabetes, dementia and ovarian cysts according to new research from TestCard.

Social media data analysing 28,000 posts about UTIs from 16,000 women saw mass confusion around the symptoms of a UTI. In 6% of all posts fear of a more serious condition being the root of the symptoms was identified. The analysis further showed ‘fear’ was expressed in almost a third of all posts (31%) on UTIs.

UTIs such as cystitis can make life miserable for many. It’s estimated half of all women in the UK will have a UTI at least once in their lifetime*. They can cause uncomfortable and painful symptoms such as burning when urinating, frequency of urination without passing much urine, bloody or cloudy urine and pelvic pain. However, once diagnosed they are usually easy to treat.

The data indicates worried British women are taking to social media and forums and using them as though they were an “out-of-hours diagnosis service”, asking questions and describing their symptoms online as soon as they become aware of them and looking for reassurance and advice.

The main causes of this fear were; pain, confusion over symptoms and lack of certainty about diagnosis, with people confused about whether it was a UTI, or another serious medical condition that they were suffering from.

Painful symptoms were the trigger for almost 27% of posts about a UTI, and people who suspected they had a UTI also asked for advice on GPs and testing access, with almost one fifth of posts (5500) identifying they were waiting for test results.

People were also going online to ask questions about UTIs on behalf of family. Almost one in ten posts (9%) referenced their mother or daughter in UTI discussion. UTIs are common in elderly people and some symptoms like mental confusion can often be mistaken for dementia.

In addition, Google search data showed that online searches of UTIs were down from March – June this year demonstrating how other medical conditions were side tracked during the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a bid to improve healthcare access and reduce time to diagnosis, TestCard has launched an at-home, non-invasive, UTI testing kit that turns a smart phone camera into a clinical grade scanner. The new technology combines a urine test kit embedded into a postcard – with a smartphone app.

This is a quick and easy way to detect a UTI, with the app providing immediate results that can then be shared with a GP or healthcare professional.

TestCard’s chief medical officer, Dr. Andrew Vallance-Owen said: ‘This data analysis demonstrates that there are a lot of concerned people out there who experience often painful and uncomfortable symptoms, but are unsure what’s causing them. It’s natural to go online and ask others what they think it could be to try and self-diagnose – but this approach should be treated with real caution.’