Bladder infections occur when bacteria enter the bladder and multiply. Typically, they are acute infections, meaning they happen suddenly, although some people experience chronic bladder infections that recur frequently.
Bladder Infection vs. UTI
The term urinary tract infection (UTI) refers to a condition that develops anywhere in the urinary system. That includes bladder infections. Other parts of the tract that can become infected are your:
- Kidneys, which produce urine
- Ureters, which carry urine to your bladder in what’s considered the lower tract
- Urethra, through which urine leaves your body
UTIs are more common in the lower urinary tract since bacteria can access it more easily. And they are different from yeast infections.
What Causes Bladder Infections?
Most bladder infections are caused by a bacteria called Escherichia coli (E. coli). It’s found naturally in the large intestines and can find its way to the urinary tract if you get stool on your skin when you have a bowel movement.
Most bacteria that enter the urinary tract are flushed out when you urinate. In some instances, bacteria get to the bladder and cling to the walls, at which point your body can’t expel them through urination. If the bacteria multiply faster than your immune system can respond, you develop a bladder infection.
Women have a higher risk of bladder infections because their urethra is short and opens to the outside of the body near the anus. This makes it easier for bacteria to get into the body.
Men experience a higher risk of bladder infections as they age if their prostate enlarges and inhibits urine flow.
What Are the Symptoms of a Bladder Infection?
Bladder infection symptoms vary based on their severity. They include:
- Painful urination
- The need to urinate more frequently
- Cloudy urine or blood in the urine
- The sensation that you need to urinate urgently
- Foul-smelling urine
- Pressure or cramping in the lower back or abdomen
If a bladder infection expands to the kidneys, it can cause pain in the middle of the back. Unlike with a backache, this pain stays the same regardless of your position. Kidney infections also cause chills, fever, nausea, and vomiting. They require urgent medical care.
How Do Doctors Diagnose and Treat Bladder Infections?
To diagnose a bladder infection, doctors check a urine sample in a process called a urinalysis. They look for signs of infection, including white blood cells, bacteria, red blood cells, and nitrites. They also perform a urine culture to determine the specific type of bacteria present. That information helps them determine which type of antibiotic to prescribe to treat the infection.
Learn About Urology Services at Baptist Health
Doctors who specialize in conditions affecting the urinary tract are called urologists. You can learn more about what they do online. Your primary care doctor may be able to treat your bladder infection or other UTI, or they may refer you to our urology experts if necessary.
If you don’t have a primary care doctor or want to find a urologist, you can use the Baptist Health provider directory.