Bladder infections are common in women, and are usually not a serious problem when treated properly. There are some simple steps you can take to reduce your chances of contracting a bladder infection. Here are the details.
Bladder Infection (Cystitis) Information
A variety of microorganisms can cause UTIs, but Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria are the most common cause of bladder infections. Staphylococcus saprophyticus (S. saprophyticus) bacteria can cause cystitis, as well, and Proteus mirabilis (P. mirabilis) bacteria can cause UTIs and produce kidney stones.
Bacteria that move from the colon to the bladder via the urethra (the tube that carries urine outside the body) often trigger this common UTI. Symptoms can range from mild to awful and include painful urination; a burning sensation during urination; frequent trips to the bathroom (often with very little result); cloudy, blood-tinged, or smelly urine; abdominal pain; and fever. Cystitis may clear up on its own, but antibiotics are often prescribed. If treated, cystitis usually won't result in any complications, but if ignored, the infection can spread to the kidneys (pyelonephritis).
Who's at Risk for Bladder Infections?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, women make more than eight million physician visits a year as a result of UTIs. As many as 20 percent of women have had or will have a UTI in their lifetime, and 80 percent of those women will probably experience a repeat infection in less than a year. Men can get UTIs, too, but they are usually related to obstruction caused by an enlarged prostate gland.
Why are women so unlucky when it comes to UTIs? The female anatomy is one reason. Women have a shorter urethra, which means bacteria have a shorter trip to infect the bladder and other components of the urinary tract. Sexually active women can have bacteria more easily introduced into their urethra, and the hormonal changes pregnant women go through may also contribute to the higher incidence of UTIs. In addition, women who use a diaphragm for birth control also have a higher risk as do those who have a tendency to "hold it" rather than using the bathroom when the urge to urinate hits.
Regardless of sex, anyone who uses a urinary catheter for a prolonged period of time, has experienced changes in their immune system, or has a stone that can block the flow of urine has an increased risk of cystitis and other UTIs.
Defensive Measures Against Bladder Infections
Try these simple tips to avoid cystitis and other UTIs:
- Get on the juice. Cranberry juice is a generally accepted way of fighting a bladder infection, but if you don't like the taste, you can try citrus juices. The vitamin C in citrus juices may combat UTIs the same way cranberry juice does.
- Drink up. Drinking lots of water will stimulate urination and help the body flush out bacteria. It also will cause you to make more frequent trips to the bathroom if you tend to wait.
- Go when you gotta. Don't stand around crossing your legs waiting until you're about to burst. Make an effort to use the bathroom as soon as you get the urge.
- Practice even safer sex. Using the bathroom before and after sexual intercourse can help flush out bacteria and drastically lower your chance of getting a UTI. Some physicians will prescribe a single pill of antibiotics to be taken after intercourse and emptying of the bladder to women who have frequent cystitis.
- Beware of certain birth control. Using a diaphragm or spermicides that contain nonoxynol-9 might put women at higher risk of developing a bladder infection. If you suffer frequent UTIs, talk with your physician about other forms of birth control.
- Get in the hygiene habit. Women should wipe from front to back to avoid transporting bacteria from the colon to the urethra. If you are prone to UTIs, take showers rather than baths and gently wash your vaginal and anal areas with a mild soap. But don't go too far -- avoid feminine hygiene sprays and douches.
While bladder infections are unpleasant, they do not present a significant danger to your health. Kidney infections, on the other hand, are very similar, but can be much more dangerous. On the next page, we will examine what causes kidney infections and how you can prevent them.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.