Background: Recurrent urinary tract infections (RUTIs) are commonly presented by women in primary care. In order to explore the poorly described experience of women with RUTIs a qualitative study was conducted that analysed data from a publically accessible internet-based self-help forum.
Methods: Qualitative Description was used to analyse the text with an emphasis on using the naturalistic language of the informants to portray their perceptions and experiences of RUTIs. Individual codes were identified inductively and grouped according to common ideas into related categories, before being incorporated into five main themes.
Results: Women of diverse ages and geographical location contributed to the website. Themes were identified that vividly explored the atypical symptomatology of RUTIs, the serious impact it had on many aspects of women's lives, different attitudes to treatments options such as antibiotics, the use of unorthodox approaches such as complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) and contrasting experiences of medical practitioners.
Conclusion: A web-based analysis can vividly capture the views of a diverse population. RUTIs can have a disabling effect on women's health, their intimate and social relationships, self-esteem, and capacity for work. Further research is required to clarify the wider relevance of the qualitative themes identified, to identify key elements of good practice, and to provide a more rigorous assessment of CAM interventions.