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A bladder infection (also known as cystitis) is fairly common, especially among women due to anatomical design of their urinary tract, which makes them much more susceptible than men to these problems.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about this medical condition; in particular, causes, symptoms, as well as complications, and how it can be treated and prevented.
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Bladder Infection Causes
The bacteria E. Coli, also known as Escherichia coli, is responsible for most bladder infections. Although harmless where it normally lives in the small intestine, E. Coli becomes a problem when it spreads to the urinary tract. This is especially an issue after menopause, where women are at substantially increased risk for bladder infections due to a decrease in estrogen, which may result in a reduction of the number of beneficial bacteria in the vagina that help keep harmful bacteria in check.
Another possible cause of bladder infection has to do with the elasticity of the bladder. As you age, the bladder tends to become less elastic and may not empty completely.
Medications (antibiotics in particular), can also result in one’s risk of bladder infections, due to the fact that antibiotics can eliminate the good bacteria and resulting in an over-growth of E. Coli in the vagina.
Drinking a lot of coffee, as well as other caffeine-ladened beverages and alcohol dehydrates your body and promotes bladder infections by irritating the urinary tract. Finally, frequent or traumatic sexual intercourse as well as pregnancy can tend to cause bacteria growth in the vagina, which increases the risk of one contracting bladder infections.
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Bladder Infection Symptoms And Complications
Bladder infections are characterized by an urgent and frequent need to urinate. This can be followed by a burning and painful sensation when doing the act, and the urine is usually visually cloudy.
Other symptoms include pressure or cramping in the lower abdomen area and perhaps a low fever. If the infection spreads to your kidneys, you might even experience nausea or vomiting, confusion (if you’re elderly), flushed or reddened skin, severe, abdominal pain, lower back pain on either side or groin pain, fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, fatigue, general ill feeling and even chills, night sweats or shaking.
That said, medical attention can be sought, and symptoms usually disappear within 24 – 48 hours. However, if you have a kidney infection, it may take 1 week or longer for your symptoms to go away.
Left untreated, however, bladder infections can lead to life-threatening blood infection like sepsis, and the risk (of one contracting from sepsis) is much greater among the young children, as well as very old adults, and those whose bodies cannot fight infections, like chemotherapy and HIV patients.
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Bladder Infection Treatments
Antibiotics taken by mouth are usually recommended because there is a risk that the infection can spread to the kidneys. Be sure to take the entire course of antibiotics prescribed even if your symptoms clear up quickly. An uncomplicated bladder infection may require only three days of treatment, while recurrent infections may need a longer course. For a mild bladder infection, women will take antibiotics for 3 days and men will take antibiotics for 7 – 14 days. For a bladder infection with complications, such as diabetes, pregnancy or a mild kidney infection, you’ll usually take antibiotics for 7 – 14 days.
Alternatively, your physician may recommend taking the drugs for a few days on your own whenever symptoms return. For example, if an infection is related to sexual activity, you may be instructed to take an antibiotic after sexual intercourse. Commonly used antibiotics include fluoroquinolones, doxycycline, augmentin, amoxicillin or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.
Your physician may also recommend drugs to relieve the burning pain and urgent need to urinate, such as Pyridium, but you’ll still need to take antibiotics for the infection itself. Some people have urinary tract infections that keep coming back or that do not go away with treatment. Such infections are called chronic UTIs. If you have a chronic UTI, you may need antibiotics for many months, or stronger antibiotics. If an anatomical problem is causing the infection, surgery may be recommended.
Bladder Infection Prevention
Everyone with a bladder or kidney infection should drink plenty of fluids, and even if you aren’t suffering from those conditions but simply prone to these infections, drinking lots of water or cranberry juice is a good idea. Don’t drink fluids that irritate the bladder, such as caffeine and alcohol.
Also, you should avoid using feminine hygiene powders and sprays, as they can irritate the urethra, the tube through which urine leaves the body. Choose sanitary pads instead of tampons, which some doctors believe make infections more likely, and change the pad each time you use the restroom.
Good hygiene before and after sex is also a good idea. Keep the genital area clean and urinate before and after intercourse to cleanse the urethra of bacteria. Plus, you should use mild detergents when washing your undergarments and avoid wearing tight-fitting pants. Instead, you should try wearing cotton-lined underwear and pantyhose.
Finally, you should make it a habit to take showers instead of baths and avoid using bath oils.
David Novak writes a syndicated newspaper columnist, appearing in newspapers around the country. He also writes for several other publications, where his byline has appeared in the likes of USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. David is a health and fitness enthusiast, as well as a technofile, reviewing the latest in consumer electronics and fitness gadgets. He contributes to Healthline weekly. For more information, visit http://www.healthline.com.
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