A bladder infection or urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that affects any part of the urinary tract. When bacteria get into the bladder and multiply in the urine, it causes a UTI.
The most common type of UTI is a bladder infection, which is also often called cystitis. Cystitis literally means an inflammation of the bladder. The other kind of UTI is a kidney infection, which is also known as pyelonephritis. This kind of infection can be serious, but if treated quickly, the kidney is not usually damaged permanently.
Although they cause discomfort, UTIs are quickly and easily treated. However, it’s important that they are treated promptly. You cannot get a UTI from someone else, although females who are just becoming sexually active often get them. Sometimes chlamydia can also cause a UTI.
Nearly 85 percent of UTIs are caused by the bacteria Escherichia coli, or E. coli. When the bacteria pass through the urethra, they can get inside the bladder and cause an infection.
There are several ways bacteria can get into the urethra. During sexual intercourse, the bacteria in the vaginal area can be pushed into the urethra, which causes irritation in the bladder. In fact, any time the vaginal area is rubbed, bacteria can be pushed into the urethra. You can get a bladder infection from oral sex, too.
There are a number of symptoms associated with UTIs. Bladder infections are characterized by an urgent desire to empty the bladder. Symptoms include frequent urination, burning or pain during urination (dysuria), bladder spasms and the feeling of having to urinate even though little or no urine actually comes out. In some cases, cloudy, bloody or foul-smelling urine, and maybe a mild fever can accompany a UTI.
A kidney infection may involve more serious symptoms, including fever, chills, and nausea. There may also be cloudy or bloody urine, abdominal pain and frequent urination. Most people with kidney infections also experience back pain just above the waist.
A physician or other health care provider can treat UTIs. The first thing your doctor will do is confirm that you have a UTI by taking a clean-catch urine specimen. At the office or clinic, you’ll be asked to wash your genital area with disposable wipes and then urinate into a sterile cup. If an infection is found when the specimen is examined, you’ll be given antibiotics. Since there are many different antibiotics available, the doctor may then use your urine specimen for a urine culture, which is a test to identify the exact type of bacteria causing your infection. It takes about 48 hours to get results from a urine culture, so you may have to switch antibiotics depending on the results.
Although antibiotics begin fighting the infection right away, they can’t stop all the symptoms right away. If you have a lot of pain, your health care provider may recommend a medication to relieve the pain in your bladder. This medicine will clear up the painful symptoms in about three days, although it will usually make you much more comfortable within hours. It’s important to take the antibiotics until the prescription is finished.
It’s important to drink lots of water during and after treatment because each time you urinate, the bladder cleanses itself a little bit more. Cranberry juice also has been shown to have positive effects on UTIs. Make sure the cranberry juice is 100% juice. Quality cranberry juice produces hippuric acid in the urine which acidifies the urine and prevents bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder. If pure cranberry juice is not available, cranberry capsules can be substituted. They can be found in most health food stores. Always take these with a large glass of water. Vitamin C may also be recommended.
If you get help right away, a UTI should completely clear up within 10 days to two weeks. You may be advised to avoid sexual intercourse until the symptoms have been gone for two weeks, which allows the inflammation to disappear completely.
There are several ways to prevent UTIs. After urination, females should wipe from front to back with toilet paper. After bowel movements, be sure to wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the rectal area to the urethra. Another thing you can do to prevent bladder infections is go to the bathroom frequently. Avoid holding your urine for long periods of time.
Males and females should also keep the genital area clean and dry. Frequent bubble baths can cause irritation of the vaginal area, so girls should take showers or take baths without adding bubble bath to the water. Avoid prolonged exposure to moisture in the genital area by not wearing nylon underwear or wet swimsuits.
If you are sexually active, urinate right after intercourse (or within 10 minutes after) and gently wash the genital area to remove any bacteria. Avoid sexual positions that irritate or hurt your urethra or bladder, and if you need lubrication during sex, use a water-soluble lubricant.
Ask Your Physician
If you have any symptoms of a urinary tract infection, you’ll need to go to a health care professional right away. The symptoms won’t go away if you ignore them–they’ll only become worse. The quicker you begin treatment, the less uncomfortable you will be.
For more information on UTIs, click here.