Asymptomatic bacteruria and Bear Grylls

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It is easy to forget how much medicalese and jargon exists within the world of health and social care.

As to what stops us speaking English, either to each other or more relevantly to patients, clients and carers, I am not sure – I suspect that most of the time we aren’t aware we are doing it.

We forget that the words we use to describe things are very different from those others employ, for example, ‘asymptomatic’ – something that doesn’t have symptoms. I guess when you look into this more deeply, when something doesn’t have symptoms, how do we know we have it? I guess that is where ‘bacteruria’ comes-in, in this instance – this means, bacteria in the urine (our urine is ‘normally’ sterile, that is, without any bacteria or other organisms) (the reason we aren’t encouraged to drink urine a la Bear Grylls, is another matter)

The other form of bacteruria is the symptomatic type – the presence of symptoms; discomfort (dysuria), going to the toilet to pee more often (frequency) and having to rush to the toilet (urgency) or even, blood in the urine (haematuria).

We need to have some sort of standard way in healthcare of talking to one another, across time and space, particularly as healthcare is an international business these days. Yet, we have to remember that while the doctors and nurses understand one another, without the patient knowing what is going-on, we have sort of lost the battle.

Is a cure a cure even if you didn’t know what was wrong with you and now you are better because you did what you were told? Surely, informed patients who understand disease and health who understand the reason for the advice or instruction they receive will be more likely to be cured?

Why asymptomatic bacteruria? Well, I mentioned this in one of my recent blogs and I have spoken to many people who seem to find attendance either at A&E (which is now called ED, for other, more esoteric reasons) or a visit to their GP, particularly when associated with older people and specifically older people with dementia results in the diagnosis of ‘UTI’ – urinary tract infection, in fact, UTI has become such a part of health and social care conversation, that I suspect it isn’t medicalese any more. It seems, if you don’t have a UTI yourself, you are likely to know someone who has…

That is, not to downplay the significance of urinary tract infections – they can be serious, life-threatening even, but they seem to have become a short-cut to thinking and sometimes an alternative to saying ‘I don’t know why you are unwell’ – instead the social norm has become, It’s a UTI, take these antibiotics…

So, my point, is that we have to be careful with words and careful with diagnosis – it is the symptomatic bacteruria (acknowledging that not all symptoms of urine infections are caused by bacteria), the urine infection that has symptoms that is the thing to treat, that is, acknowledging that sometimes, people who are confused can’t always relate their symptoms, but that is where understanding people, understanding the person you care for or treat comes into the frame.

Understanding and being understood, is, what it is about.

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