A bladder infection, or cystitis, is the inflammation of the bladder. These infections typically originate from bacteria from one’s own stool. Bacteria enter the urethra (the tube which urine passes through) and spread into the bladder, causing infection and irritation. Although bladder infections can occur in all age groups, middle aged women and men are more at risk. Women typically develop the condition more frequently due to the closeness of the anus to the urethra. Other risk factors include diabetes, having issues urinating, using a urinary catheter, kidney stones, being pregnant, and being a male with an enlarged prostate.
Common symptoms may include painful or frequent urination, having to urinate frequently at night, pain in the lower back or below the belly button, and cloudy, smelly, or bloody urine (though blood is not necessarily visible). For the elderly, confusion may be a common symptom. A bladder infection is usually diagnosed through analysis of the urine. To optimize treatment, the urine sample may be cultured to determine the specific bacteria responsible.
Occasionally, the immune system can resolve the infection on its own, but if symptoms continue for more than a couple of days, the use of antibiotics may be required. If left unresolved, the infection can spread into the kidneys, which is a medical emergency. Symptoms of this complication include fevers of over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and increased pain in the side, back, groin, or lower stomach.
To reduce the possibility of developing future bladder infections, drink plenty of fluids, change underwear daily, and urinate before and after sexual activity. It is also recommended for women to avoid the use of douches and feminine sprays, and to wipe front to back after urinating. If you are displaying the symptoms of a bladder infection, contact your doctor to discuss the most current treatment options available.