A bladder infection is most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI) which is usually caused by a bacterial infection within the bladder. For people with lowered immunity yeast can cause bladder infections as well.
Most cases of bladder infections are acute, meaning they have sudden onset. Other cases may be chronic, meaning they repeat over the long term. Early treatment can prevent the spread of the infection.
What causes a bladder infection?
Bacteria that enter through the urethra and move into the bladder and leads to bladder infections. Usually, the body removes the bacteria by flushing them out during urination.
Bacteria can sometimes attach to the walls of the bladder and grow quickly. This affects the body’s capability to destroy them, thus leading to bladder infection.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), most bladder infections are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli). This bacteria is naturally present in the large intestine.(2)
An infection can occur when bacteria from the feces get onto the skin and enter the urethra. In women, the urethra is short and the outside opening is very near to anus, so bacteria can easily move from one body system to another.
What are the symptoms of bladder infection?
The symptoms of a bladder infection differ depending on the severity. You’ll immediately observe changes during urination. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- pain or burning when urinating
- cloudy urine
- blood in urine(hematuria)
- urinating more often than usual, which is called as “frequency”
- foul-smelling urine
- a frequent sensation of having to urinate or urge to urinate, which is called as “urgency”
- cramping or pressure in the lower abdomen or lower back
When bladder infections spread, they can also cause mid-back ache. This pain is related to infection in the kidneys. Unlike muscular back pain, this pain will be persistent irrespective of your position or activity.
A kidney infection will often leads to fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. You’ll usually feel quite sick. Kidney infections are more serious than bladder infections and need immediate medical attention.
Who is at risk for a bladder infection?
Anyone can get bladder infections, but women have more risk to getting it than men. This is because women have shorter urethra, thus makes the distance to the bladder shorter and easier for bacteria to reach.
With the increasing age in men, the prostate can enlarge. This can cause obstruction to the flow of urine and increase the chances of a man developing a UTI. UTIs tend to increase in men as they age.
Other factors can increase the risk of bladder infections for both men and women. These are:
- increased age
- inadequate fluid consumption
- surgical procedure within the urinary tract
- urinary catheter
- urinary obstruction, which is a blockage in the bladder or urethra
- urinary tract abnormality, which is caused by birth defects or injuries
- urinary retention, which means difficulty in urination or complete emptying the bladder
- narrowed urethra
- enlarged prostate
- bowel incontinence
- nervous system conditions that affect bladder function, like multiple sclerosis
- lower immunity
How is a bladder infection diagnosed?
A doctor can diagnose your bladder infection by doing a urinalysis. This is a test performed on a urine sample to determine the presence of:
Your doctor may also perform a urine culture, which is a test to find out the type of bacteria in the urine causing the infection. Once the type of bacteria is determined, it will be tested for antibiotic sensitivity to find out which antibiotic will best cure the infection.
How is a bladder infection treated?
Bladder infections are cured with prescription medications to kill the bacteria, generally antibiotics, and medications that relieve pain and burning.
Oral antibiotics are prescribed to kill the bacteria that are causing the bladder infection.
If you’re experiencing pain and burning sensations, your doctor may also prescribe medication to get rid of those symptoms. The most common medication for relieving the pain and burning related to bladder infections is called as phenazopyridine (Pyridium).
When you have a UTI, drinking sufficient fluids can help flush the bacteria out of your bladder. Water is best because it doesn’t contains caffeine and artificial sweeteners, which are familiar bladder irritants.
Concentrated cranberry solutions, juices, and extracts may can prevent UTIs against the bacteria E. coli. But they should not be entirely depend upon to treat an active infection.
Can bladder infections be prevented?
Certain lifestyle changes may lower your chances of getting a bladder infection.
If you have been experiencing repeating bladder infections, your doctor may suggest prophylactic treatment. This consists of antibiotics taken in small daily doses to prevent or control future bladder infections.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest that some of the following lifestyle changes may help lower or eliminate the appearance of bladder infections:
- Drink six to eight glasses of water a day, but consult with your doctor about the adequate amount of fluid based on your overall health.
- Drink cranberry juice daily.
- Urinate as soon as you feel the pressure.
- Wipe from front to back after urinating if you are female.
- Avoid using douches, feminine hygiene sprays, scented soaps, or powders.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes.
- Don’t use a diaphragm or spermicide and change to an alternate form of birth control.
- Use nonspermicidal lubricated condoms.
- Urinate before and after any sexual activity.
Preventive antibiotic treatment
If you’re a woman experiencing repeating bladder infections, your doctor may prescribe you regular antibiotics to prevent infections or to take when you feel the symptoms of a bladder infection.
They may also prescribe you take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual intercourse.
Most bladder infections go down within 48 hours of taking the appropriate antibiotic. It’s important to continue all antibiotics prescribed, even if you’re feeling better.
Some bladder infections can worsen and spread to the kidneys because of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, delayed or inappropriate treatment, or other health issues.
Chronic bladder infections need a combination of treatment and more aggressive preventive measures. Long-term daily antibiotics may be essential in some cases.
Being previously active about bladder infections can help lower the risk for getting it as well as the pain and possible complications that came with them. The earlier you start treatment, the less likely it is that the infection will spread and the sooner you’ll feel better.