My son has been on prophylactic antibiotics since birth as he has a higher risk of developing bladder infections. Every time he is unwell, the first thing we do is phone our doctor to arrange lab tests to determine first and foremost that his symptoms aren’t related to an underlying UTI. As he has a mitrofanoff stoma, he doesn’t display the general symptoms of a bladder infection.
So what is a bladder infection? Also known as urinary tract infections (UTIs), are a common problem for many people. They occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract and multiply, causing inflammation and infection. If left untreated, a bladder infection can lead to serious complications, so it's important to know the signs, symptoms, and causes of UTIs and to seek treatment promptly.
Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Infections
The most common signs and symptoms of bladder infections include:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
- Pain or pressure in the lower abdomen or back
- Blood in the urine (a rare symptom)
If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible, as the infection can spread to the kidneys and cause serious complications.
Causes of Bladder Infections
Bladder infections are most commonly caused by bacteria that normally live in the large intestine, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli). These bacteria can enter the urinary tract through the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. From there, the bacteria can travel up into the bladder, where they can multiply and cause an infection.
Risk Factors for Bladder Infections
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing a bladder infection, including:
- Being female: Women have a shorter urethra than men, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder.
- Sexual activity: Sexual activity can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract, increasing the risk of infection.
- Menopause: As women age and enter menopause, the decrease in estrogen levels can cause changes in the urinary tract that increase the risk of infection.
- Certain medical conditions: Conditions such as diabetes, a weakened immune system, and spinal cord injuries can increase the risk of UTIs.
- Using certain devices: Urinary catheters and other medical devices that enter the urinary tract can increase the risk of infection. (this is our highest risk factor)
Diagnosis and Treatment of Bladder Infections
To diagnose a bladder infection, your doctor will take a urine sample and send it to a laboratory for testing. The laboratory will look for signs of bacteria and inflammation in the urine, which can confirm the diagnosis of a UTI.
The treatment for a bladder infection usually involves antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing the infection. It's important to take the entire course of antibiotics, even if you start feeling better before you finish, to ensure that all of the bacteria are eliminated. Your doctor may also recommend drinking plenty of fluids to help flush the bacteria out of your urinary tract.
Prevention of Bladder Infections
There are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing a bladder infection:
- Wipe front to back: After using the toilet, be sure to wipe front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the urethra.
- Urinate regularly: Regular urination can help flush bacteria out of the urinary tract and reduce the risk of infection.
- Empty your bladder before and after sexual activity: This can help reduce the risk of bacteria entering the urinary tract.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, can help flush bacteria out of the urinary tract and reduce the risk of infection.
Bladder infections are a common problem that can cause serious complications if left untreated. By understanding the signs, symptoms, and causes of UTIs, you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing a bladder infection.
I hope this was helpful and remember it is important to reach out to your doctor if you are experiencing a UTI so they can get you treated as soon as possible to avoid complications of a UTI.