Bladder infections
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A bladder infection, also know as a urinary tract infection or cystitis, is an infection of the bladder and often the surrounding urinary tract. Sometimes just the bladder is infected while sometimes the entire urinary tract becomes infected. Bladder infections are extremely painful. They often come on strong and the patient goes from a mild discomfort to severe pain in less than 24 hours.


Symptoms of a bladder infections typically include a frequent need to urinate, the inability to empty the bladder, difficulty urinating, painful urination, burning when urinating, pain in the abdomen and the lower back, fevers, and the chronic sensation of pressure in the bladder, painful sexual intercourse, penis pain, side pain with vomiting, foul or strong smelling urine, cloudy urine, blood in the urine mental changes in the elderly, and the need to urinate much more than usual at night.


Bladder infections are usually caused by bacteria that enter the urethra and travels up into the bladder.

Women are more likely to get bladder infections than women simply because the bacteria have a shorter distance to travel than it does in men. Other risk factors for a bladder infection include catheterization, pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, kidney stones, sexual intercourse, prostate inflammation, enlarged prostate, narrow urethra, immobility such as recovery from a surgical procedure, bowel incontinence, a lack of fluid intake, or the use of a diaphragm for birth control.
Bladder infections
Image: Bladder Infections

Some children do get bladder infections. Children who are in the process of toilet training, boys before the age of 1, uncircumcised boys, and children with abnormal urinary tracts are at a higher risk of bladder infections. Children who tend to get multiple urinary tract or bladder infection often undergo testing to determine whether or not they have any abnormalities of the urinary tract that can contribute to bladder infections.

A urinalysis is often done when a patient presents with symptoms that indicate a bladder infection. A urinalysis often can reveal white blood cells which indicate an infection. Urine cultures or a catheterized urinalysis may be necessary if it is not possible for the patient to supply their urine at the time requested.


Complications from a bladder infection include risks such as chronic urinary tract infections, a kidney infection, infection of the blood stream, and a complicated bladder infection, meaning that the infection is resistant to treatment and refuses to go away.


Some bladder infections require no treatment at all and they clear up in a few days on their own. However, most bladder infections are uncomfortable enough that patients seek out a physician. Treatment often involves the use of antibiotics. Medications to allow for more comfortable urination are often prescribed as well. Children and the elderly require immediate care to prevent serious and often fatal complications. Chronic bladder infections may require more than just antibiotics, including daily low dose antibiotics to prevent recurring infections. If an abnormality of the urinary tract is determined to be the cause of chronic urinary tract infections, corrective surgery may be recommended.

While not all bladder infections require an immediate trip to the physician’s office, a physician should be called at the onset of symptoms if the patient is pregnant, has diabetes, notices a discharge, the vagina or penis is painful, sexual intercourse becomes painful, there is the suspicion that a child is being sexually abused, blood or pus in present in the urine, symptoms are not relieved or return within a few months after a treatment with antibiotics.


Self care is important both in curing a bladder infection and preventing bladder infections. Women should not douche. Cloth undergarments are recommended, as is urinating after sexual intercourse. Wiping from front to back reduces the chances of bacteria spreading, drink plenty of fluids but avoid those that irritate the bladder such as caffeine or alcohol. Drinking cranberry juice can reduce the risk of bladder infections unless the patient or patient’s family has a history of kidney stones. Following these guidelines can help reduce the chances of contracting a bladder infection, however, recurrent bladder infections are not uncommon. It may take a long time to determine the cause of multiple bladder infections, especially in adults. The patient should seek medical attention for all recurring bladder infections.
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