A groundbreaking survey into the effect of urinary tract infections (UTIs) on women and the Australian economy has revealed that over 4.8 million working hours are lost each year due to the illness. The number represents over $197 million lost dollars, when calculated against the average weekly earning wage in Australia.
The survey conducted by Galaxy Research showed that 64% of women in the workforce have suffered an UTI in their lives, with a majority (51%) taking time off from work. In addition, 70% of women surveyed reported a decrease in work productivity while suffering a UTI. However UTIs impact more than a company's bottom line, they also take a toll on women's personal health and comfort.
'This survey shows that employers and the Government need to start a dialogue with working women about UTIs and how to prevent them becoming a physical and financial burden on workers and business", said Christina Khoo, PhD, Ocean Spray's Director of Research Science, which supported the survey.
Recent clinical studies have reinforced that dietary changes such as consuming cranberry products can act as a preventative measure for UTIs, and the resulting loss of work productivity.
The Galaxy survey also revealed that while over 62% of women believed cranberries helped reduce instances of UTIs, nearly 40% of those who believed in cranberry health benefits did not consume cranberry products to help maintain urinary tract health. This highlights the need to raise awareness of the impact of UTI-related antibiotic prescription prevalence among the Australian community in order to encourage this easy dietary solution to assist in reversing the rising rate of antibiotic-resistance.
The Galaxy survey was conducted with a sample size of 1000 women aged 18-64 across Australia.
Question: What surprised you about the Ocean Spray study on urinary tract infections?
Dr. Christina Khoo: I was surprised to hear that 64% of working women have had UTI sometime in their lives, and 20% of the women in the past year. What is just as surprising is that more than 50% women who had UTIs had to take time off. Coupled with the loss of productivity reported by many of these women, this supports the notion that the cost of UTIs is not just the dollar amount which is quite significant, but also the impact on the quality of life of many women who suffer from recurrent UTIs.
Question: How are 4.8 million working hours are lost each year due to UTIs?
Dr. Christina Khoo: About 900 thousand working women had cystitis 1-5 times in the past 12 months, and took an average of 3 hours from work each time to take care of the issue. This amounted to 4.8 million hours lost due to UTIs.
Question: What is a urinary tract infections?
Dr. Christina Khoo: A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in your urinary system " your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra and is one of the most common infections in the body. More than 70% of the infection is typically caused by a uropathogen (bacteria) called E.coli, which enters the bladder, and invades the bladder cells to cause an infection.
Question: What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infections?
Dr. Christina Khoo: UTIs are characterized by one or more of these symptoms: dysuria, urinary frequency, urinary urgency, or supra-pubic pain, blood in the urine, in the absence of other potential signs such as vaginal infection or discharge.
Sometimes urinary tract infections are accompanied by pyuria, or the presence of white blood cells in the urine, which can look like pus and have an unpleasant odor.
Question: How can urinary tract infections be treated?
Dr. Christina Khoo: Urinary tract infections are often treated with antibiotics. It is recommended that women consult their physician when they think they have a urinary tract infection. Most UTIs are treated with a course of antibiotics for 3-5 days, which are very effective to treat the symptoms. Sometimes, an analgesic is prescribed to reduce the symptoms as well.
According to the Mayo clinic, if you have frequent UTIs, your doctor may make certain treatment recommendations, such as:
Low dose antibiotics, initially for six months but sometimes longer
Self-diagnosis and treatment, if you stay in touch with your doctor
A single dose of antibiotics after sexual intercourse if your infections are related to sexual activity
Vaginal estrogen therapy if you're postmenopausal
In addition, drinking more fluids can help to increase your body's hydration to help remove the body's waste.
Question: Why do cranberries have a positive effect on urinary tract health?
Dr. Christina Khoo: Cranberries contain a unique combination of compounds that can prevent certain bacteria from sticking to cells and allow our body to flush it out harmlessly. Bacteria need to stick to cells to cause an infection.
Question: Will drinking cranberry juice help against urinary tract infections?
Dr. Christina Khoo: Cranberries are a nutritional approach to help prevent certain infections and reduce the amount of antibiotics required to treat them. The cranberry's unique antibacterial properties, due to the high content of powerful components such as type A PACs, help prevent certain bacteria from sticking and causing urinary tract infections. Drinking a glass of cranberry juice each day or consuming cranberry products each day can help to reduce the recurrence of UTIs and decrease the worldwide use of antibiotics.
Interview by Brooke Hunter