Bladder infections, also known as Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are common, affecting around half of all women at some point in their lives, according to research. But despite the prevalence of bladder infections, how many of us are able to spot the signs and symptom quickly, or indeed know how to avoid them?
What is a bladder infection?
A UTI is the name given for an infection which occurs in the urinary tract, and this can be either the bladder, urethra, or kidneys. A bladder infection is also known as Cystitis.
Cystitis is is “inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bladder infection,” according to patient information from the NHS. Bladder infections are common and usually only mild, often clearing by themselves without medical intervention.
But Cystitis can recur, and if this is the case then medical treatment will be needed to clear the infection, and to reduce the risk of it spreading to the kidneys.
What causes a bladder infection?
So what causes a bladder infection? According to the NHS, the most common culprit is bacteria from poo which has entered the urinary tract. The bacteria enter through the urethra, and because women have a shorter urethra than men they’re more likely to experience an infection, as the bacteria are able to reach the bladder and kidneys more easily.
There are some things that can make it more likely for an infection to occur, including:
- Being pregnant
- Having sex
- Having kidney stones
- Constipation (in children)
- Having a weakened immune system
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Poor genital hygiene habits
Why do I get a bladder infection on my period?
Some women are more prone to bladder infections than others, and some also find they tend to get them during their period too. It’s thought that low levels of oestrogen might be to blame, and studies such as this one support that theory, finding that the good bacteria normally found in the vagina and urethral tract isn’t able to survive without oestrogen.
If this sounds like you, we definitely recommend wearing a comfy pair of period pants to not only absorb your flow, but to protect and support your tummy against aches too. WUKA Stretch Seamless are a great option as they grow with you to accommodate bloating during your period, and we also recommend going for a high waisted style as they’ll go over your tummy to keep you comfy without digging in, reducing the risk of making abdominal pain worse.
Signs and symptoms of a bladder infection
Not sure whether you’re experiencing a bladder infection or something else? We spoke to Dr Vanh Dang, GP at London Gynaecology for more information on the first signs to look out for. She told us,
“Bladder infections, also known as urinary tract infections (UTIs), are common in General Practice and can present with various symptoms. The most common signs of a bladder infection include:
1.Frequent and urgent need to urinate: You may feel the need to urinate more often than usual, and the urge can be strong and sudden.
2. Pain or discomfort during urination: You might experience a burning sensation, stinging, or pain while urinating.
3. Cloudy or strong-smelling urine: Urine may appear cloudy, dark, or have an unusually strong odour.
4. Blood in the urine: In some cases, the urine may contain blood, giving it a reddish or pinkish colour.
5. Lower abdominal or pelvic pain: You might feel pain or pressure in the lower abdomen or pelvic region.
6. Feeling of incomplete bladder emptying: Even after urinating, you may still feel the need to urinate or have a sensation of incomplete emptying.
7. Mild fever: Sometimes, a low-grade fever may accompany a bladder infection, although it's less common.
Bladder infection and incontinence
Sometimes bladder infections can cause urge incontinence, where the need to pee is sudden and urgent, and this happens frequently. In some cases, this is caused by the muscles in the wall of the bladder contracting too often, making it feel like you need to pee all of a sudden. It’s also known as an ‘overactive bladder’ and can be a side effect of a bladder infection.
We recommend wearing a pair of our new Drytech™️ incontinence pants to catch any leaks that might occur while you recover from a bladder infection, and do make an appointment to see your GP if this symptom persists.
How to treat and prevent a bladder infection
Dr. Vanh Dang told us that seeking medical advice is always a good idea if you suspect you have a bladder infection.
“Doctors can perform tests, such as a urine culture, to confirm the presence of an infection and prescribe appropriate medication, typically antibiotics,” she told us, adding: “It’s important to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if the symptoms improve, to ensure the complete eradication of the infection.”
Dr. Vanh Dang also shared the following tips for treating and preventing further infections:
"In addition to antibiotics, the following measures can help manage and prevent bladder infections:
Increase fluid intake: Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated can help flush out bacteria from the urinary system.
Urinate regularly and completely: Emptying your bladder frequently and ensuring you fully empty your bladder during each urination can help prevent the accumulation of bacteria.
Avoid irritants: Reduce or eliminate potential bladder irritants such as caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and acidic drinks.
Urinate before and after sexual activity: This can help flush out any bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sexual intercourse.
Practice good hygiene: Keep the genital area clean and wipe from front to back after using the toilet to prevent the spread of bacteria.
When to see the doctor
If you find that your symptoms aren’t clearing, or you feel very unwell, it might be worth another visit to the doctor to find out what’s going on. Dr. Vanh Dang told us,
"Here are some situations in which it is recommended to seek medical attention:
- If your symptoms persist for more than a day or two, or if they worsen despite home remedies or over-the-counter treatments, it is a good idea to consult a healthcare professional.
- If you experience severe pain or discomfort during urination, intense abdominal pain, high fever, or blood in your urine, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms could indicate a more severe infection or the possibility of complications.
- If you have frequent bladder infections, defined as more than three infections within a year, it's advisable to see a doctor. They can evaluate your condition, identify potential underlying causes, and develop a plan to manage and prevent future infections.
- If you are pregnant, have diabetes, a weakened immune system, or other underlying health conditions that increase the risk of complications from a bladder infection, it is essential to seek medical care promptly.
- If you suspect that the infection has spread beyond the bladder, such as to the kidneys, or if you are experiencing severe pain in your back or sides, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention.
Remember, a healthcare professional can provide an accurate diagnosis, prescribe appropriate antibiotics if necessary, and offer guidance on managing and preventing future bladder infections.”
What causes a bladder infection?
Bladder infections are caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract via the urethra. Women are more likely to experience bladder infections as their urethra is shorter than men’s, making it easier for the bacteria to enter the urinary tract.
How do you know if you have a bladder infection?
The most common signs and symptoms of a bladder infection include:
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Pain or discomfort during urination
- Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
- Blood in the urine
- Lower abdominal or pelvic pain
- Feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
- Mild fever
What is bladder infection pain like?
Most people feel a burning sensation when they use the loo, and this is often the first sign of an infection. A dull, aching pain in the lower abdomen and pelvic area is also common