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What is a Bladder Infection?

By Jane Harmon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A bladder infection is a bacterial infection of the urinary tract, often called a urinary tract infection (UTI). More common in women than in men, it is usually quickly and easily treated with a course of antibiotics, but if left untreated, it can be very dangerous. Infections are not transmitted from person to person, and people usually get one from bacteria that is naturally in or on the body — most often E. coli, which lives in human feces. Still, sexual activity often triggers a bladder infection, and some old-school medical professionals might still refer to it as the "honeymoon disease," since new brides often acquired one on their honeymoon.

The first sign of this infection is the person feeling that she needs to urinate, yet she produces little urine and the "full" feeling doesn't go away. This should be the first sign for a patient to go see a healthcare practitioner for antibiotics, because ignoring the symptoms will only cause further pain. An untreated bladder infection will result in painful urination or the inability to urinate at all.

Eventually, an untreated bladder infection will reach the kidneys. A kidney infection is nothing to fool around with — the pain alone will drive most people to the nearest medical professional. Kidney infections can be accompanied by dangerously high fevers and can lead to permanent kidney damage, so an infection needs to be treated with the first symptoms.

Some people are prone to recurring infections. This is probably due to the size and shape of the urethra. People who find themselves getting one infection after another may need to change some habits. They should drink lots of water, as it flushes and cleans the urinary tract.

People should urinate often. Many people try to hold their urine as long as they can in the belief that this will expand their bladder and give them more control. This really isn't a good idea, and frequent trips to the bathroom will keep the urinary tract healthier in the long run.

Women may also want to consider adding cranberry juice to their diets, as it may add hippuric acid to the system, acidifying the urinary tract and making it more difficult for a bacterial infection to get started. There is some debate among researchers about how effective this proactive treatment is, but it's unlikely to do any harm. Women who do want to consume cranberry juice must make sure to use pure juice, however, and not juice cocktail, which is diluted and contains too much sugar. People who don't want to drink cranberry juice may want to try cranberry in pill form, which is often available at health food stores.

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Discussion Comments

By Oceana — On Oct 17, 2012

I get cramps down really low when I have a bladder infection. I have to urinate a lot, but unlike most people with the infection, I produce a good volume of urine each time.

This could be because I drink more water than the average person. Even when I don't have an infection, I urinate once an hour. When I am sick, I go every thirty minutes.

I've heard that this is good, because I flush toxins out more efficiently. Still, bladder infections usually don't go away on their own, even when aided with extra water.

By kylee07drg — On Oct 16, 2012

@feasting – This sounds like a good thing to try. However, if your bladder infection symptoms don't go away in a few days, you really need to go to a doctor.

The only proven bladder infection treatment is antibiotics. They will definitely knock out the infection, whereas cranberry juice is usually just used as prevention. I'm not saying it wouldn't work, but I think it's best to seek proven treatment after a few days if you have seen no signs of improvement.

By feasting — On Oct 15, 2012

@healthy4life – Too much sugar is not good for you, but I have found that sweetened versions of cranberry juice, like crangrape and cranapple, work just as well at treating and preventing bladder infections as the pure kind. I drink two glasses a day when I have a bladder infection, and I can deal with a temporary increase in sugar to get relief. I only drink one glass when I'm not dealing with an infection, and it helps to prevent one.

You can also eat yogurt and pineapple to prevent bladder infections. I think that for a mild bladder infection, the cure can be found by combining two glasses of cranberry juice per day with one carton of yogurt and a few slices of pineapple. I do this at the first sign of bladder infection symptoms, and it works to clear them up.

By healthy4life — On Oct 15, 2012

I can't stand the taste of pure cranberry juice, so I started taking cranberry extract pills. I take two a day, and I haven't had a bladder infection since I began using them.

They have no flavor, and I simply swallow them with water. It's so much easier than dealing with the puckered tongue that cranberry juice can give me!

By Planch — On Jul 31, 2010

Other less common causes of a bladder infection include the use of diaphragms and spermicides during intercourse.

Some bladder infections are also caused by chlamydia and mycoplasma.

By pharmchick78 — On Jul 31, 2010

@gregg1956 -- Good question -- so many people only focus on the symptoms of bladder infection in women, but men get them too!

The symptoms of bladder infections in men are a little different than those for women.

Most men will experience a burning sensation when urinating, and a feeling of having to urinate more often than usual.

Also, some men experience discharge from their genitalia, along with blood in the urine. Additionally, very smelly urine can be a sign of a male bladder infection.

As the article says, it's better to get a urinary tract infection treated sooner than later -- you really, really don't want to wait until it gets to the kidney, believe me!

By gregg1956 — On Jul 31, 2010

What are some of the symptoms of a male bladder infection?

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