A bladder infection, or urinary tract infection (UTI), is an infection in any part of your urinary system (e.g., urethra, bladder, ureters or kidneys). Uncomplicated urinary tract infections affect the urethra and bladder or lower urinary tract. If left untreated, however, these types of infections can spread to the upper urinary tract or ureter (the duct that passes urine from the kidneys to the bladder) and kidneys. While severe infections are rare, they are very dangerous and need immediate medical attention.
Seek urgent medical care if you begin to experience upper back or side pain, fever or chills, or nausea or vomiting.
Fortunately for men, bladder infections are rare. According to the National Association for Continence, only 12 percent of men will experience a UTI at least once in their lifetime as compared to 60 percent of women. Why? The urethra, the tube through which urine leaves the body, is much shorter in women than men. This means bacteria don’t have as far to travel before reaching the bladder.
Common symptoms of a bladder infection
UTIs are extremely unpleasant. If you’ve ever experienced one you probably haven’t forgotten the symptoms. Here are the most common symptoms of a bladder infection:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A sharp burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Cloudy urine
- Red, pink or dark-colored urine (indicating blood)
- Strong-smelling urine
- A slight fever
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the signs or symptoms listed above, it’s best to visit Getwell Urgent Care as soon as possible for proper medical care and a prescription for antibiotics. While there are many things you can do at home to help prevent infection, medication is the best way to alleviate symptoms and treat the underlying infection. It’s equally important to finish all of the medication (even when you feel better) to ensure your infection does not return.
Ten ways to help prevent bladder infections
Here are ten easy things you can do to help prevent bladder infections:
- Practice good hygiene daily
As a general rule, women should always wipe from front to back after any visit to the bathroom. This will help keep germs and bacteria from coming in contact with your urethra.
- Always, always, always void after sex
Voiding after sex (within 15 minutes) will flush existing bacteria from the urethra and lower your risk of infection.
- Wash before and after sex
Both partners should wash their hands and genitals before and after sex to avoid passing unwelcomed bacteria into the vagina. This step is especially important for women who struggle with repeat infections.
- Stay hydrated daily
If you’re dehydrated, you’re decreasing your urine output, which means more minerals, germs and bacteria have a chance to build up and settle in the urinary tract or kidneys. Be sure to drink plenty of water and urinate often (approximately every three hours).
- Don’t hold it
If you feel the urge to go, stop what you’re doing and go. Delayed urination concentrates the urine and allows bacteria to grow and spread.
- Take a probiotic
Beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, can help keep the urinary tract healthy and free from harmful bacteria. In particular, lactobacilli may help you prevent bladder infections.
- Take showers instead of baths
Bacteria grow more quickly in warm water and hot water. The Getwell doctors recommend avoiding hot tubs and baths to lower your risk of infection. The soap in bubble baths can irritate the urinary tract and should be avoided.
- Wear cotton underpants
Moisture-wicking cotton underpants are designed to pull heat and moisture away from the body, which helps keep you dry therefore preventing UTIs. It is also important to replace your underpants daily to prevent the buildup of dirt, sweat, bacteria and oil.
- Replace sanitary pads often
No matter how light your flow is, or even if there is no flow, bacteria can build up. It’s important to change your pad every 3-5 hours to avoid infection.
- Avoid douches or vaginal sprays
Less is best when it comes to the female urinary tract system. Avoid douches, vaginal sprays and scented wipes as these products can kill the lactobacillus (good bacteria) in the vagina and increase your risk of infection.
If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of a bladder infection, visit Getwell Urgent Care as soon as possible to avoid further complications. We are available to quickly diagnose and treat your infection with antibiotics. We are open for walk-in appointments 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.