Bladder Infection Symptoms & Treatment
A bladder infection, also called cystitis, is the most common of all kinds of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Some people, mainly women, develop bladder and other urinary tract infections because they are prone to such infections the way other people are prone to getting coughs or colds. Urinary tract infections are much less common in men and children than in adult women.
A urinary tract infection in a man or child may be the sign of an abnormal urinary tract. For this reason, when men or children are found to have a urinary tract infection, they may be referred to a urologist, a specialist in diseases of the urinary system and the male reproductive system, for additional tests and x-rays.
If the infection is not treated promptly, bacteria may then travel further up the ureters to multiply and infect the kidneys. A kidney infection is called pyelonephritis.
Microorganisms called chlamydia and mycoplasma may also cause UTIs in both men and women, but these infections tend to remain limited to the urethra and reproductive system. Unlike E. coli, chlamydia and mycoplasma may be sexually transmitted, and infections require treatment of both partners.
Causes & symptoms in females
Most bladder infections in girls and women are what’s known as ascending infections, which are caused by microbes traveling upward through the urethra to the bladder. Because the female urethra is usually less than two inches long, bacteria can easily access the bladder and multiply. Bacteria from the anus or vaginal discharges can enter the female urethra, due to the proximity of its opening.
For women the first signs of bladder infection are usually pain during urination (dysuria), a sudden and strong desire to urinate (urgency), and increased frequency of urination. About half of women sufferers experience fever, pain in the lower back or flanks, nausea and vomiting, or shaking chills. These symptoms indicate pyelonephritis, or spread of the infection to the upper urinary tract.
About three-quarters of women suffer recurrences of bladder infection within two years.
The most common bacteria associated with UTIs in women include Escherichia coli (about 80% of cases), Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, and Proteus species. Risk factors for UTIs in women include:
- Sexual intercourse. The risk of infection increases if the woman has multiple partners.
- Use of a diaphragm for contraception.
- An abnormally short urethra.
- Diabetes or chronic dehydration.
- The absence of a specific enzyme (fucosyltransferase) in vaginal secretions. The lack of this enzyme makes it easier for the vagina to harbor bacteria that cause UTIs.
- Inadequate personal hygiene.
Causes & symptoms in males
Most bladder infections (and UTIs in general) in grown men are complications of kidney or prostate infections. They usually are associated with a tumor or kidney stones blocking the flow of urine and often are persistent infections caused by drug-resistant organisms. These infections in men are most likely to be caused by E. coli or another bacteria.
Men usually experience the same symptoms of bladder infection as women. Risk factors for UTIs in men include:
- Lack of circumcision. The foreskin can harbor bacteria that cause UTIs.
- Urinary catheterization. The longer the period of catheterization, the higher the risk of UTIs.
- Hemorrhagic cystitis, which is marked by large quantities of blood in the urine, is caused by an acute bacterial or viral infection of the bladder. In some cases, hemorrhagic cystitis is a side effect of therapy or treatment with cyclophosphamide. Hemorrhagic cystitis in children is associated with adenovirus type 11. In some cases, hematuria results from athletic training, particularly in runners.
Diagnosis of bladder infections & other UTIs
In many cases, your family doctor (or 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 or pus in the urine usually indicates infection. The presence of blood in the urine (hematuria) may indicate acute UTIs, kidney disease, kidney stones, inflammation of the prostate (in men), endometriosis (in women), or cancer of the urinary tract.
If an infection is present, the physician may also perform a urine culture, a process in which bacteria from infected urine are grown in a laboratory. The germs can then be identified and tested to see which drugs will provide the most effective treatment. It often takes a day or two to complete this testing.
The symptoms of a urinary tract infection may resemble those of other urinary tract diseases. If no infection can be found or the infection won’t go away, your doctor may refer you to an urologist.
Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics, generally taken by mouth. Your doctor will choose a drug that treats the bacteria most likely to be causing your infection. Once the test results arrive, you may be given a different antibiotic that is more effective against the particular bacteria found in your urine.
The number of days and doses of medicine you must take depend, in part, on the type of infection you have and its severity. You usually will have to take the medicine for at least two to three days and possibly for as long as several weeks.
The daily treatment schedule your doctor recommends depends on the specific drug prescribed. It may call for a single dose each day or up to four daily doses. A few doses of the antibiotic may relieve you of the need to urinate often and most of the pain from a bladder infection. It may be several days, however, before the bladder infection and its symptoms vanish completely.
In any case, 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.
When you have a urinary tract infection, you should drink fluids whenever you are thirsty. It is not necessary to drink large amounts, but you should make certain that your body has the liquid it needs.
If the urinary tract infection is severe, it may involve the kidneys. In that case, antibiotic drugs may have to be injected. Hospital treatment with medication given intravenously, injected directly into the bloodstream, is sometimes necessary. Once your infection is gone, your doctor may recommend that you have additional tests. The tests are performed to assure that there are no abnormalities in the urinary tract that might result in kidney damage from urinary tract infections.
Tips for reducing risk of a UTI
- Don’t postpone. Urinate when you feel the urge.
- Don’t rush. Take your time when you urinate to empty your bladder completely.
- Respond to your body’s signals of thirst by drinking enough water or other liquids every day.
- 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.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a bladder infection, contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our board certified urologists.