What Is a Bladder Infection?
What Are Symptoms of a Bladder Infection?
Symptoms of a bladder infection include:
- Pain or a burning on urination
- Urinary frequency
- Urinary urgency
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Lower abdominal pain or discomfort
- Urine that's dark, cloudy or strong smelling
- Feeling unwell (malaise)
Symptoms of a bladder infection in young children may also include:
What Causes a Bladder Infection?
Bladder infections are caused when bacteria get into the urethra and travel up into the bladder. Bladder infections are more common in women, likely due to the shorter distance from the anus to the urethra.
Risk factors for developing bladder infections include:
- Frequent or recent sexual intercourse
- History of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Use of spermicide-coated condoms, diaphragms, or spermicides alone for birth control
- Conditions such as kidney stones or ureteral reflux that block or change the flow of urine in the kidneys
- Structural or functional urinary tract abnormalities
- Having a urinary catheter
- A genetic predisposition to UTIs
- For men, not being circumcised or having insertive anal sex
- Wiping the bottom from back to front after having a bowel movement
How Is a Bladder Infection Diagnosed?
Bladder infections are usually diagnosed with a urine test.
- Urinalysis, which checks for white blood cells in the urine that can be a sign of infection
- Urine culture, which uses a sample of urine to try and grow bacteria in a laboratory to identify the type of bacteria causing the UTI and determine which antibiotics would be effective against that bacteria
In people who have recurrent bladder infections, additional testing may be indicated to check for abnormalities in the kidneys, ureter, bladder, or urethra, or for kidney stones. Tests may include:
What Is the Treatment for a Bladder Infection?
Most bladder infections are treated with antibiotics. This is the fastest way to get rid of a bladder infection. In some mild cases, bladder infections may go away on their own without treatment, but because untreated UTIs can lead to complications, consult your doctor to see if letting the infection run its course is the right option for your case.
Medications to treat bladder infections include:
Medications to numb the bladder and urethra and reduce the burning pain of some UTIs include:
- Phenazopyridine (Pyridium which is available by prescription, or Uristat, which is available over-the-counter [OTC])
While cranberry juice is often touted as a home remedy for UTIs, there are no good studies on the effectiveness of cranberry juice for treating a bladder infection.
Home remedies to relieve symptoms of a bladder infection include:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Adequate fluid intake
- Use a hot water bottle on the lower abdomen or between the thighs
- Wear loose clothing
- Urinate frequently (don’t hold it in, which gives bacteria more time to multiply)
- Avoid sexual intercourse
How Do You Prevent a Bladder Infection?
People who have recurrent bladder infections may be able to prevent them in some cases:
- Drink more fluids
- Urinate right after intercourse
- It is believed this will help flush out germs that can enter the bladder. There is no evidence this prevents bladder infections but it is not harmful.
- Change birth control: avoid spermicides and diaphragms
- Vaginal estrogen may be recommended for women who have been through menopause
- Wiping the bottom from front to back after having a bowel movement
Preventive antibiotics or antibiotics taken following intercourse, as recommended by your doctor
Cranberry juice, cranberry tablets, and a supplement called D-mannose (a type of sugar related to glucose) have been promoted to help prevent frequent bladder infections but there are no studies that show these products are effective. However, use of these products probably is not harmful. Tell your doctor before taking any supplements.