Cherry Healey recalls ‘strange’ symptoms of recurring condition – ‘I’m really susceptible’

Cherry Healey discusses her new show about women's health

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According to the British Journal of General Practice around 37 percent of women surveyed reported that they have suffered from a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point during their lifetime, and 28 percent reported more than one UTI episode. However, latest data from NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) explains that UTIs are in fact one of the “most common conditions” in primary care, with up to 50 percent of women having had at least one episode by the time they are 24. Healey was one of those individuals and, back in 2019, she shared how she had been suffering from “fast developing” urinary infections after being left with permanent kidney damage in 2009.

Having been plagued by UTIs since she was a teenager, Healey, who is also known for her work on Inside The Factory alongside Gregg Wallace, shared that these infections have become more frequent since giving birth to her second child Bear.

“It turns out I’m really susceptible to them – some women just are,” Healey explained back in 2019.

“I have learnt you can be as hygienic as you like and as fastidious about looking after yourself and still get them, so the idea that women who get them are dirty is not true.”

Having ignored a UTI back in 2009 whilst at a friend’s wedding, claiming she was too busy to see a doctor, Healey was hospitalised after collapsing in the bridal suite.

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Due to the ordeal she spent five days in hospital and was left with permanent scarring to her kidneys. Typically, UTIs can be easily treatable with antibiotics, but if left, they can become serious spreading deeper into the body.

It is the permanent scarring on her kidneys that contributes to Healey being susceptible to UTIs, but having had so many during her lifetime she is now aware of the first signs and symptoms to look out for.

She shared: “I know what to look out for – if I’ve been for a wee and it’s a bit shorter than normal that’s usually the first sign.

“Then I’ll get this strange ache in my pelvic area which grows and grows if you don’t do anything about it, until next time you go to the loo you’ll get the trademark sting when you wee.”

Being the women’s health advocate that she is, Healey went on to explain that the stigma seemingly attached to UTIs needs to change. She added: “There’s a stigma attached and people link them to one-night stands or lots of sex.

“If I tell someone I have a UTI they look at me as if to say, ‘Ooh, did you have an interesting weekend?’ but that’s a complete myth.

“They can happen if I’m too hot, get dehydrated, go on a long-haul flight, if I’m over-tired – so many different reasons.”

In fact, the NHS explains that any of the following reasons can cause a UTI:

  • Having sex
  • Pregnancy
  • Conditions that block the urinary tract – such as  kidney stones
  • Conditions that make it difficult to fully empty the bladder – such as an  enlarged prostate in men and constipation in children
  • Urinary catheters (a tube in your bladder used to drain urine)
  • Having a weakened immune system – for example, people with diabetes or people having chemotherapy
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not keeping the genital area clean and dry.

In addition to causing pain when urinating, the infections can also make an individual need the toilet more often and lead to a general unwell feeling and can cause tiredness.

If you or someone you know suspects that they have a UTI, it is best to seek a medical opinion straight away. Some individuals believe that by drinking cystitis sachets, or cranberry drinks and products, everyday that they can prevent UTIs from occurring or naturally cure them, but the NHS states that there is “no evidence [cranberry products] help ease symptoms or treat a UTI that has already started”.

Effective things that individuals can do at home include:

  • Take paracetamol up to four times a day to reduce pain and a high temperature – for people with a UTI, paracetamol is usually recommended over NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • You can give children liquid paracetamol
  • Rest and drink enough fluids so you pass pale urine regularly during the day
  • Avoid having sex.

If similarly to Healey, an individual suffers from recurring UTIs, a GP may be able to prescribe a slightly different antibiotic or vaginal cream containing oestrogen. For some people, antibiotics do not work or urine tests do not pick up an infection, even though you have UTI symptoms. This may mean they have a long-term (chronic) UTI that is not picked up by current urine tests. In this case the GP will refer an individual to a specialist for further tests and treatments.

Although it is not known if UTIs are covered within the ground-breaking new Channel 5 programme, Women’s Health: Breaking the Taboos, Healey speaks to women, some who are familiar celebrity faces, to discuss their most intimate issues and the effect these have on their lives.

From painful periods and menopause to vaginal dryness and endometriosis, the programme doesn’t shy away from anything. From there, drug-free treatments are put to the test and Healey speaks to experts to arm the nation with the facts about conditions such as fibroids, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), hair loss and incontinence.

Speaking about the importance of the programme, Healey shared: “When it comes to women’s health, there’s one thing we are incredibly bad at, and that’s talking about it. It’s time to bust the taboos and get talking.”

Women’s Health: Breaking the Taboos is on Channel 5 tonight at 7pm.

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