A bladder infection, also called cystitis, is the most common of all kinds of urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs are 10 times more common in women than men and more than 50 percent of women will develop one UTI within their lifetime.
Microbes traveling upward through the urethra to the bladder cause most bladder infections in girls and women. Because the female urethra is usually less than two inches long, bacteria can easily access the bladder and multiply.
The first sign of a bladder infection is usually pain during urination. Other signs may include a sudden and strong desire to urinate or increased frequency of urination. About half of women sufferers experience fever, pain in the lower back or flanks, nausea and vomiting, or shaking chills. Though these symptoms are not as common, if you are experiencing them call your physician, as they may be signs the bacteria has reached the kidneys.
Risk factors for UTIs in women include:
- Sexual intercourse.
- Use of a diaphragm for contraception.
- An abnormally short urethra.
- Diabetes or chronic dehydration.
- Inadequate personal hygiene.
In many cases, your primary care physician will try to find out if you have a urinary tract infection by examining samples of your urine under a microscope. Normal human urine is sterile. In contrast, the presence of bacteria in the urine usually indicates infection.
Urinary tract infections are treated with oral antibiotics. The number of days and doses of medicine you must take depend on the type of infection you have and its severity. It is important to take medications as prescribed and not to stop them simply because the symptoms have subsided. Unless urinary tract infections are fully treated, they frequently return.
Tips for reducing risk of a UTI include:
- Urinate when you feel the urge, empty your bladder regularly and try not to hold urine more than three hours.
- Take your time when you urinate to empty your bladder completely.
- Urinate after having sex.
- See your doctor at the first sign of a problem. Urinary tract infections are very common, and they are easiest to treat if caught before they become severe or spread beyond the bladder.
- Drink eight or more glasses of water daily to help wash out bacteria.
- Eat a diet rich in grains, vegetables, and acidifying juices.
- Avoid or eliminate foods that irritate the bladder: coffee, black tea, alcohol, and chocolate.
- Avoid high-sugar foods such as sweet vegetables, fruits, sugar, and honey.
- Drink unsweetened cranberry juice to acidify the urine and provide hippuric acid. Cranberry capsules can substitute for the juice.
Women with recurring UTIs or blood consistently in their urine should be seen by a urologist who will perform more sophisticated tests that may include a urine cytology, ultrasound, CT urogram or cystoscopy.
Dr. Sethi is a urologist with Pacific Urology. Pacific Urology has offices in San Ramon, Walnut Creek, Concord, Livermore and Brentwood. Dr. Sethi can be reached at 925-830-1140.