What is a Bladder Infection?
A bladder infection is also known as cystitis, and is commonly referred to as a urinary tract infection (UTI). When bacteria enters the urinary tract via the urethra, sometimes it moves up into the bladder, where it can multiply and cause an infection.
Although generally very uncomfortable, treating a bladder infection is not difficult. Most bladder infections or UTI’s are caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E.coli).
Types of Bladder Infection
There are two main types of urinary tract infections: lower tract and upper tract infections. An infection found in the lower tract involves the urethra and/or the bladder. Infection of the urethra (tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside) is called urethritis, while infection of the bladder is called cystitis.
Upper tract infections involve the kidneys and can be caused either by bacteria entering the kidneys from the bloodstream or by bacteria ascending up from the bladder via the ureters to the kidneys. An infection of the kidneys is known as pyelonephritis, and this is a serious medical condition.
Diagnosing a Bladder Infection
The doctor will perform a physical examination, check the patient’s medical history, and inquire about symptoms presented. During the physical examination, the doctor may examine the patient’s pelvic area, abdomen and lower back to determine whether the bladder or kidney is enlarged
Tests to Diagnose Bladder Infection
- Urine test by using a dipstick in the urine sample
- By urine culture where a specimen is sent to the laboratory to grow and identify the causative bacteria
- Ultrasound scan
Symptoms of Bladder Infections
The signs and symptoms of bladder infections include:
What Causes a Bladder Infection?
The most common cause of bladder infections is infection by bacteria which have spread from the rectal area into the urethra. Approximately 80% of bladder infections are caused by Escherichia coli (E.coli). Other bacteria that may also cause bladder infection include Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, and Proteus species.
Contributing Causes of Bladder Infection
- The short urethra in women makes them more prone to developing infections
- Sexual intercourse
- Use of a diaphragm for birth control
- Inadequate personal hygiene
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Enlarged prostate in men
- Medical conditions such as diabetes or HIV
- Weakened immune system
Bladder Infections in Infants
Infants are prone to bladder infections due to the inability to fight off infections by underdeveloped immune systems, and prolonged exposure to bacteria from diapers. When an infant’s stool is spread into the urethra, bacteria begin to grow and multiply. Unfortunately, an infant’s natural immune system is not developed enough to fight off these bacteria, leading to a bladder infection.
Infants are not able to tell us when they have a bladder infection, so parents must be aware of the signs and symptoms, such as general lethargy, loss of appetite, dark urine, bloo dy urine, incessant crying and cold or flu symptoms. In order to prevent a bladder infection in an infant, it is imperative to keep the genitals clean and dry, and to wash with fragrance free & dye free gentle cleansers.
Bladder Infections During Conception and Pregnancy
Unfortunately, bladder infections are very prevalent in women, especially after sexual intercourse. When a woman is trying to conceive, the frequency of intercourse may even double, making it that much easier for the bladder to become infected. Having sexual intercourse while dealing with a bladder infection, will only make the problem worse. Most of the time, a bladder infection begins with an untreated urinary tract infection. Having sex when you have a UTI will most likely lead to more complications, irritation and pain.
It is common for pregnant women to get a bladder infection. A pregnant woman who suffers with a bladder infection is also more likely to have it spread into the kidneys, due to the frequent hormonal changes and shifts in the position of the urinary tract. When these changes occur it is easy for bacteria to travel up the urethra to the kidneys. Pregnant women, who ignore the symptoms of a bladder infection, may result in premature delivery, plus other risks such as high blood pressure.
Help for Bladder Infections
The symptoms of bladder infections can be alleviated with a number of effective treatment options including drug therapy, complementary therapy, or natural remedies. Certain preventative measures can also help to reduce symptoms.
- Over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers, anti-inflammatories or antispasmodics are commonly prescribed to relieve pain and discomfort.
- Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat the infection.
It is important to note that treating a bladder infection with antibiotics may contribute to recurring bladder infections, and continued antibiotic use weakens the immune system. Antibiotic use is also associated with an increased risk of developing thrush and other yeast infections. Pregnant women should consult their doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication.
Natural treatments such as herbal and homeopathic remedies can be effective in relieving the pain and discomfort of bladder infections as well as treating the infection, without the problems associated with OTC drugs and antibiotics.
Herbal and homeopathic remedies have been traditionally used for centuries to effectively address both the symptoms of bladder infections as well as the underlying causes, thereby providing a more holistic and longer-lasting solution. Natural remedies are also safe to use regularly without the harmful side effects of conventional medicine. Using these remedies will not only treat the symptoms successfully, but also enhance your overall health and well-being.
A combination of carefully selected herbs such as Agothosma betulina (buchu), Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), Avena sativa , Hypericum perforatum (St. John's Wort), Vaccinium myrtillus (billberry) and Echinacea angustifolia prevent further infection by providing antibacterial action, supporting the immune system, and creating a urinary tract climate which is not conducive to bacteria. Consult a herbalist or homeopath about a treatment most suited to your symptoms. Complementary therapy can offer a holistic and effective approach to treating a bladder infection and prevention and can include:
- Nutritional therapies
- Pelvic floor treatments (to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles)
Use these therapies as part of your broader treatment plan to reduce discomfort, pain and to strengthen the urinary tract system
Tips to Help Prevent Bladder Infection
- Drink plenty of water, at least eight glasses a day, to flush out your system
- Do not resist the urge to urinate
- When visiting the bathroom, women should wipe from front to back after urinating
- Avoid using products that may irritate the genital area such as scented soap, bubble bath, talc or spray
- Wear cotton instead of nylon underwear
- Avoid wearing tight jeans or trousers and wet swimsuits
- Wash before and after sexual intercourse
- Change tampons and sanitary towels frequently when menstruating
- Drink lots of pure cranberry juice
- Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar in the diet