Sticky Urethra and Spongey Kidneys

This blog post contains descriptions of medical conditions. Reader discretion is advised.

I’ve spent a lot of time in exam rooms the past month; I’ve had terrible pains and all kinds of other problems. When a week’s long course of CIPRO did not alleviate the symptoms of a UTI, my doctor sent me to get a CT scan of my kidneys.

exam room #6The scan showed a small kidney stone and indications of Medullary Sponge Kidney Disease, a condition that isn’t dangerous but makes suffers predisposed to kidney stones and UTIs. Tubes in the kidneys collect urine to process it, but those of us with MSK have cysts in the kidney that keep urine from flowing freely. The condition is congenital, though not inherited. MSK doesn’t have a cure or treatment, just treatment of the kidney stones or UTIs that develop because of it.

Though it was comforting to have a diagnosis, MSK doesn’t explain the back and abdominal pain I’d been experiencing.

My doctor sent me to the urologist for a confirmation of the MSK diagnosis and to see if anything else was going on. My appointment was yesterday, and it was strange. The typical age-range of urology patients is not thirty-something. Also, the waiting room was decorated with a number of cartoons about urologists and urological conditions. Who knew there were so many cartoonists talking about the urinary tract?

The doctor did confirm that I have MSK. He said that, unrelated, I was also simply prone to UTIs and bladder infections. While I knew that women were likely to get bladder infections because the length of the urethra between the opening and the bladder is short, the doctor did give me new information. He said that there is a continuum, with some women never getting bladder infections on one end (lucky them), and on the other are women who get bladder infections all the time (lucky me). What seems to explain this is the “stickiness” of the inside of the urethra. If the urethra lining is slick, bacteria can’t take hold and make their way up to the bladder; however, if the urethra is sticky, even slight pressure on the urethra opening can cause an infection. There really isn’t a treatment for this, either. He gave me and antibiotic to take right before or right after any activity that might lead to an infection.

In six weeks, if I am not feeling better, he’ll do another procedure to look inside my bladder.