A bladder infection, also known as cystitis or a water infection, is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) which affects around 60% of women and 12% of men at least once during their lifetime. Although bladder infections are not usually serious, if you’ve had one in the past then you will be aware that the symptoms can be painful and annoying.
There might be, however, some things you don’t know about this common type of infection so read on for more information.
Bladder infections are the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI)
There are four main types of urinary tract infection. Urethritis is an infection of the urethra, which is the thin, fibromuscular tube which begins at the lower opening of the bladder. Pyelonephritis is the infection of the kidneys. Vaginitis is another type of UTI, and this is an infection of the vagina. Cystitis is a bladder infection and is the most common type of UTI.
Around 90% of bladder infections are caused by E. Coli bacteria
The cause of most bladder infections is a particular type of bacterium called Escherichia coli (E. Coli). When E. Coli enters the urinary tract, it multiplies to cause an infection. In most cases, the E. Coli enters the urinary tract via the urethra.
More women than men suffer from bladder infections
A lot more women than men suffer from bladder infections. Women are also more likely to suffer from recurrent cystitis. The most likely reason behind women getting more bladder infections than men is the female anatomy. Women have a shorter urethra than men and it is also positioned closer to the rectum. This makes it easier for E. Coli to enter the urinary tract via the urethra.
A bladder infection can lead to something more serious like a kidney infection
Bladder infections are viewed as quite a mild infection which is relatively easy to treat, and in most cases, they can be dealt with swiftly without much hassle. However, when more severe bladder infections are given time to develop without any treatment, they can lead to something more serious like a kidney infection. You should, therefore, visit your doctor if cystitis symptoms persist.
Bladder infections are more common during warmer, summer months
There are a number of reasons why people suffer from cystitis more during the summer. Warm weather provides the perfect environment for bacteria and germs to grow. Also, higher temperatures can lead to dehydration, which is another cause of bladder infections. Sexual activity also tends to be higher during the summer which can also be a trigger for UTI’s. Spending more time outdoors and often having to hold in your urine until you can find a bathroom is another reason why your chances of getting a bladder infection increase during the summer.
Sex is a trigger for bladder infections
Sex can cause bladder infections, particularly in women. The main reason for sex being a cause of bladder infections in women is because the female urethra is positioned close to the rectum which increases the chance of E. Coli bacterium entering the urinary tract. It is recommended that women urinate before and after sex. During urination bacteria can be flushed out of the bladder and urinary tract therefore not providing it with an opportunity to multiply and develop into an infection.
Women often suffer from something called Honeymoon cystitis
Honeymoon cystitis refers to the higher rate of bladder infections suffered by women on their honeymoon due to increased levels of sexual activity. Honeymoon cystitis is, however, also a general term used to describe bladder infections in women at other times too. As we have already mentioned, peeing before and after sex can eradicate harmful bacteria and therefore help to prevent bladder infections from occurring.
What you eat and drink can worsen bladder infection symptoms
A wide range of food and drink can irritate the bladder to make cystitis symptoms even worse. Included in the types of food which can worsen symptoms include spicy ingredients like chilli and citrus fruits such as lemons. You should also be wary of drinks with artificial sweeteners, sodas and caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee if you have a bladder infection. It is also important to avoid alcohol if you have a UTI as this can irritate the bladder and also cause dehydration.
You could have a range of symptoms if you have a bladder infection
Cystitis can have a range of symptoms which can vary in severity depending on how aggressive your infection is. Bladder infection symptoms include a pain or a burning sensation when urinating, blood in your urine or cloudy urine, having to go to the toilet to urinate more than usual, your urine having a foul smell, having an urge to urinate immediately and maybe even a cramping pressure in your lower abdomen and lower back. Mild symptoms can sometimes go away naturally but if your symptoms persist then you should seek medical advice and treatment.
You could have no symptoms whatsoever
You can have a bladder infection without having any symptoms whatsoever, or hardly any symptoms at all. In children especially, they may not display specific or traditional cystitis symptoms but instead might appear lethargic or fussy. It is possible to have a bladder infection and show no symptoms at all, so it is therefore feasible to have cystitis without even being aware that you have an infection.
Not drinking enough water may cause bladder infections
Not drinking enough fluids may either cause cystitis or exacerbate bladder infection symptoms. Ensuring that you are drinking enough water will increase your chances of flushing E. Coli and other bacteria out of your system. One of the recommendations to women who suffer from recurrent cystitis is to drink water throughout the day in order to remain hydrated. Drinking water regularly will also increase the likelihood of you fully emptying your bladder when you go to the toilet and this also helps to prevent cystitis.
Wearing certain types of underwear can increase your chances of getting a bladder infection
Some types of underwear provide an optimum environment for bacteria to grow and multiply by trapping heat and moisture. Women who suffer from bladder infections are urged to avoid tight fitting, non-breathable underwear. It is also recommended that women go panty-free at night and also change into fresh underwear straight away after exercise. Loose fitting clothes are also a good idea. Underwear made from cotton is considered the best material for women suffering from UTI’s. Cotton is breathable and has a soft feel which is a better choice than underwear made of synthetic material.
Sometimes bladder infections can go away naturally
Although bladder infections are often irritating and painful, mild cases are not something you should worry about too much. They can often go away naturally without any treatment in just a few days. If your symptoms persist then you should seek medical advice. If you do have mild cystitis symptoms, then by following certain guidelines like drinking plenty of water and avoiding specific food and drink can be enough to get rid of the bladder infection in a short period of time.
Antibiotics can get rid of bladder infections quickly
If cystitis symptoms persist for a few days and don’t get any better, or even worsen, then you should go and see your doctor. It is likely that your doctor will prescribe you with a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics get to work quickly in killing the bacteria which is causing the infection and many people will experience symptom relief in just a few days. It is important that bladder infections are treated before they develop into something more serious like a kidney infection.
Natural alternatives to antibiotics are becoming more popular for bladder infections
Antibiotic resistance is what happens when the bacteria it is designed to kill continue to grow and are actually able to defeat the drug itself. This can happen when someone takes antibiotics on a regular basis over a prolonged period of time. For these reasons, natural alternatives to antibiotics are becoming increasingly popular for the treatment of bladder infections. For long term cystitis, natural supplements are often viewed as a better option for general maintenance.
Here are two of the natural supplements available:
D-mannose – This is a natural sugar which is related to glucose. It falls into the category of a simple sugar which means it contains just a single molecule of sugar. D-Mannose has a white appearance and slightly sweet taste. It has been used in recent years by people suffering from cystitis. Researchers believe D-mannose works by attaching itself to bacteria within the urinary tract which is then eradicated during urination. There are different types of D-mannose supplements to choose from, depending on your preferences. D-mannose powder can be dissolved easily in a glass of water before drinking and is available in both tubs and pouches. D-mannose tablets are another option and are more suitable for taking when you are out and about throughout the day.
Cranberry – This has been considered as an effective natural treatment for cystitis for many years. These supplements are deemed a better option to cranberry drinks due to the acidity within cranberries which can cause irritation to the bladder. Cranberry capsules are a popular choice among those suffering from recurrent cystitis.
Certain types of contraceptive techniques increase the likelihood of bladder infection
Women who use a diaphragm, spermicide or spermicide-lubricated condoms are often more likely to suffer from bladder infections. The reason for this is because these methods can all contribute to bacterial growth. If you are suffering from regular bladder infections as a result of your current birth control method, then it is recommended that you try an alternative.
Pregnancy increases the risk of bladder infections
Bladder infections can be common in pregnant women because the growing fetus can place more pressure on the bladder and urinary tract. Furthermore, a female woman’s urine can become more concentrated, and this can make it more likely for bacterial infections to develop within the bladder.
Your risk of getting a bladder infection increases as you get older
You become more susceptible to bladder infections the older you get. Older people can struggle from weak urine flow which can make it difficult for them to fully empty the bladder. The longer urine remains in the bladder the greater the chances there are for bacteria to grow and multiply to develop into cystitis.
Children suffer from bladder infections
UTI’s and bladder infections are quite common in children. The symptoms for children with cystitis are sometimes different to those in adults with infections. If a child has a bladder infection, they may have symptoms which include a high temperature, vomiting, lethargy, irritability, loss of appetite, not being able to gain weight properly. They may also have symptoms similar to adults with cystitis which include pain or a burning sensation when peeing, the urge to pee frequently, pain in the tummy and lower abdomen, blood in the pee and cloudy urine.
Pets will sometimes get bladder infections
Domestic pets will sometimes get bladder infections. Cystitis is quite common in dogs. Signs that your dog has a UTI includes them urinating frequently whenever they go outside. Dogs might also strain or whine when urinating which is a sign that it is painful. Other signs that a dog has a bladder infection include blood in the urine, dripping urine and regular licking of the genitals. Urine can also have a particularly strong odour. If you suspect that your pet has a bladder infection, you should take it to the vet. The vet should then recommend the best way of getting rid of cystitis and also suggest prevention techniques in the future.