Bladder infection: overview and more

A bladder infection, a type of urinary tract infection (UTI), occurs when bacteria build up in the bladder. While prescription antibiotics are the only proven way to treat UTIs, there are important home strategies you should use to get rid of the infection and ease discomfort . Self-help can also help prevent future bladder infections .

Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Get Drug Information

Symptoms of bladder infection

Symptoms that generally accompany a bladder infection include :

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Sharp pain or burning in the urethra when urinating
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain in the lower abdomen, back, or sides.

Diagnostics

If you have symptoms of a bladder infection, you should call your doctor. Although most UTIs are not serious, they do not go away on their own and can cause complications, such as a kidney infection. A urine test, microscopy, and culture may be done to confirm that you have a UTI.

Watch out

If you 've been diagnosed with a UTI , your doctor will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics . The patient information included with your antibiotic will be helpful. Specifically, depending on the medication you are prescribed, you may need to avoid food or drink.

Also keep in mind that some antibiotics can make birth control pills less effective. Therefore, be sure to use other contraceptive methods if necessary.

To effectively treat UTIs, you need to undergo a full course of antibiotics.

Many people want to stop taking their medications as soon as symptoms go away, but a full prescription is needed to completely clear up the infection, even if you have no symptoms. A urinalysis may be done about a week after completing treatment to confirm that the infection is gone.

Self service

Antibiotics are necessary to clear up the infection, but there are some things you should also do at home to ease symptoms, make sure the infection clears, and prevent recurrence. It is important to follow your self-care routine while taking antibiotics.

  • Drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid (preferably water) to get rid of the infection and prevent future urinary tract infections.
  • A heating pad can relieve pain. You can lay it on your back or stomach using a blanket or towel to protect your skin.
  • Try, for example, an over-the-counter treatment like Azo-Standard to relieve pain and the urge to urinate associated with UTIs. However, Azo-Standard does not treat the underlying infection.

You may be advised to drink cranberry juice or take herbal cranberry supplements to prevent bladder infections. However, the effectiveness of this home treatment has not been proven.

Prophylaxis

There are several ways to reduce the chances of your bladder getting reinfected. If you are prone to recurrent UTIs, you should make these preventive strategies a habit.

  • Drink plenty of water every day to help the bacteria in your bladder dissolve into the fluid.
  • You can prevent bacteria from being flushed out of your bladder by urinating as soon as you feel the urge, rather than waiting.
  • Make sure you follow the rules of personal hygiene: wipe from front to back after urinating or defecating and wash your face daily. Avoid constipation.
  • Washing before and after sex, or at least urinating before and after sex, can also reduce the risk of UTIs.
  • Consider wearing cotton crotch underwear. This will allow moisture to escape. Other materials can trap moisture and create a potential breeding ground for bacteria. Wear loose-fitting clothing to keep the air dry.
  • Using a diaphragm, unlubricated condoms, or spermicides can increase the risk of bladder infections in women. You may want to consider changing your birth control methods if you have had a bladder infection.
  • Some healthcare providers prescribe antibiotics to be taken right after sex in women who often have UTIs.
  • Cranberries and cranberry juice have been studied as a way to prevent bladder infections. However, there is not enough research to back this up, but there is some evidence that they can help.

Get the word of drug information

While you may not want to call your doctor when you start to feel the symptoms of a bladder infection, home methods can't really cure a bladder infection. However, self-care practices are an important part of the prevention and treatment of UTIs. If you are prone to recurrent UTIs, be sure to speak with your doctor. You may need a more complete evaluation to understand why you have this tendency.

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