A bladder infection, otherwise known as cystitis, is inflammation of the bladder caused by bacteria. It is more common in women and very rare in men. Although it is not known why women get more infections and man, it is theorized that because women have a shorter and more direct urethra, bacteria is able to enter the bladder more easily.
Once bacteria enters the bladder and is not washed away, it causes an infection. The bacteria will grow and overtake the bladder, causing much discomfort. Individuals who are suffering from a bladder infection will find they have persistent or frequent urges to urinate, pain on urination and sometimes cloudy, bloody or foul smelling urine. Individuals who also have fever, chills and nausea may also be experiencing a kidney infection which is much more serious.
Very mild infections can clear up quickly at home in response to a few home remedies. By changing the pH of the urine and increasing your fluid intake individuals can the effect a cure. Drink several 8 ounce glasses of cranberry juice, which will change the acidity of the urine to a degree that does not support the life of the bacteria, and drink 8 ounces of water every hour. The combination of a hostile environments and increased fluid flow may cure a mild infection.
If, however, you experience no relief within 24 hours you must consult a physician for more aggressive treatments. If there is a delay in clearing the bladder from an infection it can lead to more serious kidney infection as the bacteria travels up the ureters and into the kidneys.
There is a wide variety of antibiotics used to treat bladder infections. Most uncomplicated infections can be treated with a short burst of antibiotics, although some organisms can take up to one week. Individuals who are suffering from the pain and discomfort of a bladder infection will find initial relief within the first couple of doses of antibiotics.
As an adjunct to antibiotic therapy, your physician may be able to order Pyridium. This is an anesthetic agents for the urinary tract. Although it doesn’t treat the actual infection, it is helpful to erradicate the pain while waiting for the antibiotics to work. This medication will turn the urine orange and stain underwear and clothing.
In an uncomplicated case the physician will order a broad spectrum antibiotic which will most likely cover the bacteria growing in the bladder. However, elderly people, those with chronic underlying health conditions such as diabetes, HIV or paraplegia are often prescribed a longer course of antibiotics after the urine is sent for culture and sensitivity.
Culture and sensitivity is a test done by collecting some urine and sending it to the lab where they attempt to grow out the bacteria that is growing in the bladder and then determine which antibiotics this particular bacteria is most susceptible to. Initially, the physician will order a broad spectrum antibiotic while waiting for the test results. When the results have returned the physician may choose to change the antibiotic and extend the length of treatment.
After the treatment has been completed, an individual may be asked to come back for a follow-up test to be sure that the bladder is free of all signs of infection. Individuals who suffer from other chronic illnesses may find they continue to have a low-grade bacterial growths in their urine without any symptoms. In this case the physician will order another round of antibiotics, often a different line.
People who have frequent recurrent bladder infections may be prescribed low daily doses of antibiotics for an additional six months or longer in order to prevent any further infection. Patients whose infections are related to sexual activity may be given small doses of antibiotics to take or given recommendations for a glass of cranberry juice and increased fluids each day. In cases where the infection is the result of a blockage or obstruction, such as a kidney stone or enlarged prostate, surgery may be needed in order to alleviate the underlying medical condition which is causing the symptom.
Dr Weil: Bladder Infections
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Urinary Tract Infections in Adults
EarthClinic: Bladder Infection Remedies