Bladder Infection (Cystitis)
The uncomfortable and irritating symptoms of a bladder infection send American women to their doctors six to nine million times every year. Most of these women will be treated with a course of antibiotics, a strategy that kills the current infection but that leaves the bladder vulnerable to a future bacterial invasion. As a result, most of the women who see a doctor about a bladder infection will return; 10 to 20 percent of all women experience a bladder infection at least once over a twelve-month period.
When the bladder is infected, usually by bacteria, its interior walls become inflamed. This inflammation, medically known as cystitis, leads to a frequent and urgent need to urinate, although the urine produced may be scanty, and the bladder may not feel completely empty. There is usually pain or burning upon urination, and there may be cramping in the abdomen or the lower back, and fever.
Women suffer from bladder infections far more frequently than men do, mainly because of the female anatomy. In women, the urethra—the tube that conducts urine away from the bladder and out of the body—is very short, and its opening is in close proximity to both the anus and the vagina.
It’s relatively easy for vaginal or intestinal bacteria to travel to the opening to the urethra, make their way up the tube, and infect the bladder.
Although bacteria are the cause of most infections, several other conditions put women at risk for this disorder. Frequent use of antibiotics is one of the most prevalent. Since these medications destroy the “good” bacteria needed to fight infections. Anything else that weakens the immune system, such as stress or a poor diet, increases the likelihood of an infection. Pregnancy, sexual intercourse, and injury to the area are associated with a higher risk. Hormone imbalances can also contribute to an increased susceptibility. Menopause is a time when many women first start to experience bladder infections.
You should consult a doctor, as there is a possibility that the infection can spread to the kidneys. Your physician should monitor your progress and make sure the infection isn’t traveling upward. And if you have recurring infections. Your doctor should examine you for a structural abnormality in the urethra or the bladder that prevents urine from flowing properly. Should your doctor want to prescribe antibiotics. Explain to him or her your desire for more conservative treatment and ask whether antibiotics are really necessary. (In some cases, they’re needed to prevent a kidney infection.) If you are a man with a bladder infection, you may have a more serious condition.