When an abnormal growth of bacteria occurs within the bladder it can lead to a bladder infection – or cystitis. Females typically experience bladder infections more than males, and bladder infections are the most common form of bacterial infections experienced by humans.
Bladder infections can either be simple or complicated. A simple bladder infection only occurs in healthy females with normal urinary systems. It is rare that healthy males will experience a bladder infection, so they are put into the complicated bladder infection category.
Types of bladder infections
Simple bladder infection: Simple bladder infections occur when bacteria travels to the bladder. The urinary system in women makes them more prone to develop simple bladder infections in comparison to men. In women the urethra is close to the rectum where bacteria can travel from. Sexual intercourse can move the bacteria into the bladder as can wiping from back to front after a bowel movement. Women are recommended to wipe front to back to avoid having bacteria move into the bladder.
Complicated bladder infections: Complicated bladder infections occur in individuals who have abnormal urinary systems. In males, the long urethra should prevent bladder infections, so if a male develops a bladder infection it is considered abnormal. If normal flow of urine is blocked in males, the bladder will retain urine along with bacteria that is normally expelled through urination. Nerve damage, spinal cord injury and disease can block urine flow. Another common reason for bladder infections in males is an enlarged prostate which can also block urine flow.
Causes of bladder infections
- Interstitial cystitis: Exact cause is unknown and quite common in women – this is a chronic condition.
- Drug-induced cystitis: Certain medications can cause inflammation of the bladder.
- Radiation cystitis: Radiation treatment of the pelvis can lead to inflammation of the bladder.
- Foreign-body cystitis: Results from long-term use of a catheter which increases risk of bacterial infections and tissue damage.
- Chemical cystitis: Results from being hypersensitive to products like bath soaps and feminine hygiene products.
- Cystitis resulting from another condition: Other disorders, like kidney stones, may result in cystitis.
Symptoms of a bladder infection
Symptoms of a simple bladder infection include:
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Only small amounts of urine are expelled
- Sudden urges to urinate
- Pain, burning or discomfort when urinating
- Urge to urinate at night
- Pain in lower abdomen
- Blood in urine
- Urine is cloudy, unpleasantly odorous or has a strong scent
Symptoms of a complicated bladder infection can be similar to those of a simple bladder infection, but individuals may experience additional symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting, back pain and confusion if bacterial infection travels to the bloodstream.
How to prevent a bladder infection
Treating a simple bladder infection involves the use of antibiotics, but the experience can be painful, so it is best to prevent them at all costs. Here are some natural tips to prevent a bladder infection.
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water in order to promote urination and expel bacteria.
- Don’t hold in your urine.
- After a bowel movement, wipe front to back in order to discourage bacterial movement from the rectum into the urethra.
- Take showers as opposed to baths.
- Gently wash skin around the vagina and anus – do not use harsh soap or scrub vigorously.
- Empty your bladder as soon as possible after intercourse.
- Avoid the use of scented deodorants and scented feminine hygiene products near the genitals.