If You’ve Gone to a Doctor for This, Get a Second Opinion, Study Says

When it comes to our health, most of us turn to medical professionals for the best treatment without questioning their methods or measures. But your doctor is only human and may not always be right. A new study has found a large discrepancy among doctors treating one particular health issue—which means patients who seek medical help for this common problem might want to get a second opinion, just in case. Read on to find out which health issue requires a follow-up, and for more recent health news, This One Thing Can Help You Drop 20 Percent of Your Body Weight.

Doctors treat female UTIs with the wrong antibiotics nearly half the time.

Researchers studied insurance claims for 670,400 women aged 18 to 44 who received a urinary tract infection (UTI) diagnosis between April 2011 and June 2015, publishing their findings Feb. 24 in the journal Infection Control&Hospital Epidemiology. According to the study, nearly 47 percent of the prescriptions issued were incorrect, or "inappropriate based on clinical guidelines." According to these guidelines, the study researchers classified fluoroquinolones and beta-lactams as inappropriate antibiotics. "Inappropriate antibiotic prescribing is quite common for the treatment of uncomplicated UTI," the researchers concluded. And for more urinary problems, If Your Urine Is Anything But These Colors, Call Your Doctor.

And they are also likely to prescribe antibiotics for an incorrect amount of time.

Not only were inappropriate antibiotics often prescribed, but the researchers also found that most prescriptions were written for incorrect durations—even if an appropriate antibiotic was prescribed. According to the study, 76 percent of the patients were prescribed treatments for the wrong amount of time. Doctors were most likely to prescribe antibiotics for longer than medically necessary, not shorter. And for more health concerns, discover The Surprising Thing Your Earwax Says About Your Health, Study Finds.

The incorrect treatment of a UTI can have deadly consequences.

Anne Mobley Butler, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine and surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, explained in a statement that incorrect antibiotic prescriptions for UTIs come with "serious patient—and society—level consequences." According to a 2019 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person in the U.S. dies every 15 minutes from an infection that has become resistant to antibiotics.

"Accumulating evidence suggests that patients have better outcomes when we change prescribing from broad-acting to narrow-spectrum antibiotics and from longer to shorter durations," Butler said. "Promoting optimal antimicrobial use benefits the patient and society by preventing avoidable adverse events, microbiome disruption, and antibiotic-resistant infections." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

You're likely to have at least one UTI in your life.

This study is particularly relevant to most of the female population, as the likelihood that you will have at least one UTI in your life is high. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 50 percent of adult women report having one or more UTIs in their lives. Per the CDC, symptoms of a UTI can include "pain or burning while urinating, frequent urination, feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder, bloody urine, and pressure or cramping in the groin or lower abdomen." And for more CDC guidance you need to know, If Your Grocery Store Doesn't Have This, Don't Go Inside, CDC Says.

Researchers say doctors must periodically review clinical guidelines to prevent incorrect treatments.

Researchers suggest that more intervention measures are needed so that doctors are less likely to prescribe inappropriate antibiotics or antibiotic durations. This would include "establishing personal and policy commitment to change, reporting progress, and enhancing education around best practices," especially in rural settings where UTI antibiotic prescribing is more likely to be incorrect. The study explains that rural patients were more likely to have been "diagnosed by family medicine or pediatric physicians or non-physicians," rather than by internal medicine or obstetrics/gynecology (OBGYN) physicians, which may account for the lack of knowledge on best practices. And for more health advice, If You Take This Common Medication, Talk to a Doctor Before Your Vaccine.