A bladder infection can be be uncomfortable, but lifestyle changes may help to prevent some infections. In this article Dr Bradley Wood, a urologist at Life Fourways Hospital, explains the causes and symptoms of this infection and what best ways to treat it will be.
Causes of a Bladder Infection
Bacteria can enter the urethra and then the bladder. This can lead to an infection, most commonly in the bladder itself (cystitis), which can then spread to the kidneys (pyelonephritis). “Most of the time, your body can get rid of these bacteria. However, certain conditions increase the risk of having infections,” says Wood.
“Women tend to get them more often because their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus than in men. Because of this, women are more likely to get an infection after sexual activity. Menopause also increases the risk of an infection, as well as diabetes, advancing age, surgery, immobility and catheterisation.”
- Cloudy or bloody urine, which may have a foul or strong odour
- Low-grade fever (not everyone will have a fever)
- Pain or burning with urination, pressure or cramping in the lower abdomen (usually middle) or back
- A strong urge to urinate often, even right after the bladder has been emptied.
“A urinary tract infection is uncomfortable, but treatment is usually successful.” Wood adds that symptoms of a bladder infection usually disappear within 24 to 48 hours after treatment begins. “If you have a kidney infection, however, it may take a week or longer for your symptoms to go away.”
Antibiotics taken by mouth are usually recommended, because there is a risk that the infection can spread to the kidneys. For a simple bladder infection, you will take antibiotics for three to five days. For a bladder infection with complications such as pregnancy or diabetes, or a mild kidney infection, you will usually take antibiotics for seven to 14 days, adds Wood. “It is important that you finish all the antibiotics, even if you feel better. If you do not finish all your antibiotics, the infection could return and may be more difficult to treat.”
Everyone with a bladder or kidney infection should drink plenty of fluids. Wood explains that some women are prone to having repeat or recurrent bladder infections. In this situation, your doctor may suggest several ways of investigating (eg a bladder scope or cystoscopy) and treating these.
- Taking a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual contact may prevent these infections, which occur after sexual activity.
- Having a three-day course of antibiotics at home to use for infections diagnosed based on your symptoms may work for some women.
- Some women may also try taking a single, daily dose of an antibiotic to prevent infections.
Wood maintains that lifestyle changes may help to prevent some bladder infections. After menopause, a woman may use oestrogen cream in the vagina area to reduce the chance of further infections.
Dr. Wood’s Top Tips:
- Do not douche or use feminine hygiene sprays or powders.
- As a general rule, do not use any product containing perfumes in the genital area.
- Take showers instead of baths. Avoid bath oils and foam baths, saunas, etc.
- Clean your genital and anal areas before and after sexual activity, and urinate before and after sexual activity. Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom.
- Avoid tight-fitting pants. Wear cotton-cloth underwear and pantyhose, and change both at least once a day.
- Drink plenty of fluids (2 litres each day).
- Drink cranberry juice or use cranberry tablets, but not if you have a personal or family history of kidney stones.
- Avoid fluids that irritate the bladder, such as alcohol and caffeine.