What is a Bladder Infection?
A bladder infection is the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI) and occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract, eventually causing the bladder to be inflamed. These bacteria – often E. Coli – are usually found in the bowel and on the skin between the anus and the perineum. Although harmless there, E.Coli thrives on the acidity of urine and causes an infection. A bladder infection is not infectious but if you have had one once, you may well get one again.
Who is more at risk of a bladder infection?
According to Stanford University,”Approximately half of all girls and women and some boys and men will experience at least 1 urinary tract infection (UTI) during their lifetime.”
Bladder infections affect many people, especially women between the ages of 24 and 50 and women over 60. An untreated bladder infection can lead to renal problems. Bladder inflammation in men is often associated with prostate inflammation.You are at greater risk of getting a bladder infection is greater if you have:
Women are most likely to suffer from bladder infections
Women are more prone to UTI’s than men. This because their urethra is shorter and nearer to the anus. Sexual intercourse may also cause bacteria to enter the urethra. The risk of bladder infection is even greater in some women when using a condom with spermicidal lubricant.
What are the symptoms of a bladder infection?
You may have a bladder infection if you have the following symptoms:
- Pain or burning sensation when peeing.
- Peeing frequently but always in smaller quantities.
- The urge to pee can hurt.
- Pain in the back or lower abdomen.
- Cloudy or smelly urine or urine with traces of blood.
- Possibly signs of an increase in temperature.
- Feeling tired and unwell, and possibly confused and agitated if elderly.
When a bladder inflammation passes into the prostate and/or the kidney’s become inflamed, the problem becomes more serious. You will have a fever and probably also pain in your lower back or abdomen. Men may also have pain between the anus and scrotum.
Testing for a bladder infection
A urine testing is the easiest way of finding out if you have a UTI. You can do this yourself with a self-test.
You could also consult your GP and request a test. If you have had a bladder infection before another urine test is not always necessary.
If you plan to make an appointment with your GP the following tips may be helpful:
- Store your urine sample in a sterile container and close the lid.
- Make sure the urine is less than two hours old when you drop it off at the surgery.
- If you can’t do this, store the pot in the refrigerator and deliver it within 24 hours.
Your GP might want to know which bacterium has caused the bladder inflammation. For example when:
- A woman is pregnant.
- A patient has had multiple UTI’s
- The patient has a stubborn bladder infection not responding to treatment.
- The patient has reduced immunity.
These patients are more likely to develop a kidney or pelvic inflammation and need prompt treatment with antibiotics. A urine culture is grown to show which bacteria caused the bladder inflammation so that the right antibiotic can be prescribed.
In men, the test sometimes doesn’t work. When a man has a bladder infection, a urine examination may not show this immediately. Your doctor might need to do a urine test with urine collected from peeing with a retracted foreskin.
Advice and Tips
If you have a bladder infection, it is important that you drink a lot of water, about 1.5 – 2 liters a day. This dilutes the urine and ensures that waste is rapidly flushed away.
To prevent bacteria from accumulating in your bladder and causing a recurring inflammation, it is also important that you:
- Wipe from front to back after urinating.
- Empty your bladder before and after sex to flush away any bacteria that might have migrated to the urethra during intercourse.
- Choose a different form of contraception if you suspect that condoms, spermicides or lubricants are behind the bladder inflammation.
- Cranberry products can help prevent bladder infection.
Women and children can usually just wait for the symptoms to disappear of their own accord without any problems. Painkillers can be used if necessary.
In the case of severe symptoms that last longer than a week, antibiotics will cause the bladder inflammation to heal more quickly. This also reduces the risk of inflammation extending to the kidneys.
If you regularly suffer from bladder infections, your doctor may advise you to use antibiotics daily for half a year as a preventative measure. If you suspect that your bladder infection is caused by sex, you can swallow an antibiotic pill every two hours after sex.
When you start a course of antibiotics, you should always complete it, otherwise, bacteria may be left in the bladder and start a new infection. In some cases, the symptoms will continue until a few days after the completion of the course. However, they will usually disappear after a few days.
After the menopause
Women who regularly have bladder infection after the menopause might be advised to use estriol cream or vaginal pills. This makes the mucous membrane around the urethra less vulnerable and reduces the risk of bladder infections.
Men are immediately prescribed antibiotics to fight the bacteria that cause bladder infections.
As the UTI can be cured in this way, it is less likely that it will spread to the kidneys or prostate.
When should you contact a doctor?
There are a number of situations where you should contact your GP immediately. This is when:
- You become nauseous.
- You have a raised temperature.
- Your symptoms remain 3 to 5 days after the start of antibiotics.
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