What is a bladder infection?
Your bladder is the hollow organ that holds urine until you're ready to urinate (pee). A bladder infection is usually caused by bacteria. Bladder infections are also called cystitis.
Bladder infections are common in women and rare in men
Bladder infections make you want to urinate more often than normal and sometimes cause pain or burning when you urinate
Doctors can usually tell if you have a bladder infection by testing your urine
Doctors treat bladder infections with antibiotics
The Urinary Tract
What causes bladder infections?
Bladder infections are caused by bacteria getting into your bladder. Usually, bacteria get in through your urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body.
Women are more likely than men to get bladder infections. A woman's urethra is shorter and closer to the vagina and anus, which makes it easier for bacteria to get to the bladder.
For women, the following also raise the chance of getting a bladder infection:
Having had other bladder infections, especially if they began when you were young
Menopause Menopause Menopause is when women stop having periods (stop menstruating) and can no longer get pregnant. Menopause usually happens after age 40. In the United States, the average age for menopause is... read more , because of changes in hormone levels and thinning tissues around the urethra
Using a diaphragm Diaphragm Barrier contraceptives physically block the sperm’s access to a woman’s uterus. They include condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, contraceptive gels, contraceptive sponges, and spermicides (foams... read more (a rubber birth control device that goes in the vagina)
Using a spermicide (a gel that you put in the vagina to kill sperm)
For both women and men, the chance of having a bladder infection is higher if you have:
A urinary catheter (a thin, flexible plastic tube that is put into your urethra to drain your urine)
A procedure where the doctor puts surgical instruments in your urethra
What are the symptoms of bladder infections?
The need to urinate more often, including at night
A burning or painful feeling when you urinate
Pain in your lower belly and sometimes lower back
Cloudy urine and maybe some blood in your urine
Sometimes you may have a bladder infection but no symptoms. This is more common for older people, people with nerve problems in their bladder, and people who have a catheter in their bladder. Sometimes, in older people confusion is the only symptom of a bladder infection.
How can doctors tell if I have a bladder infection?
Your doctor can tell if you have a bladder infection based on:
Testing your urine
To test your urine, doctors need a sample that doesn't have any bacteria from your skin in it. So before you urinate, you'll have to clean off the area where your urine comes out. You'll first urinate a little bit in the toilet. You'll then put the urine container in your urine stream and collect a sample. If the doctors don't think this method will give a clean enough sample, they may put a catheter in your bladder to get the sample.
How do doctors treat bladder infections?
Your doctor will give you:
If your urine flow is partly blocked, you may need surgery. If you have diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more or a weakened immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more , treating those conditions makes it easier to treat the bladder infection.
If you feel a lot of burning when you urinate, doctors may give you a pill that helps relieve the burning until the antibiotics work.
How can I prevent bladder infections?
Women who tend to get bladder infections can:
Drink lots of fluids
Urinate after sex
Wipe front to back after pooping
Avoid spermicides and diaphragms
For women who still get a lot of bladder infections, doctors sometimes have them take antibiotics every day to try to prevent such infections. After menopause, doctors may prescribe a cream containing the female hormone estrogen.