are a serious health problem affecting millions each year.
of the urinary tract are the second most common type of infection in the body.
tract infections (Bladder Infections) account for about 8.3 million doctor visits each year.*
Women are especially prone to Bladder Infections for reasons that are not yet well
understood. One woman in five develops a Bladder Infection during her lifetime. Bladder Infections in men
are not as common as in women but can be very serious when they do occur.
*Ambulatory Care Visits to Physician Offices,
Hospital Outpatient Departments, and Emergency Departments: United States,
1999–2000. Vital and Health Statistics. Series 13, No. 157.
Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services; September
The urinary system
is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Kidneys are a key
element in the system, located towards the center of the back and below the
ribs. The purpose of the kidneys is to
remove excess fluids and waste from the boodstream, while also producing a
hormone that aids in the creation of red blood cells. Ureters are narrow tubes that carry urine
from the kidneys to the bladder, a bag-like organ that stores urine and empties
it through the urethra.
On average, a typical adult releases about a quart and a half per day. This amount can vary from person to person,
based on the volume of foods and fluids consumed by each individual. The
amount of urine created at night, is approximately half as much as is created
during the day.
the causes of Bladder Infection?
Typically, urine is
actually sterile; free of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Urine, however, does contain different
fluids, salts, and wastes. Infection may
occur when small organisms, such as bacteria, remain on the opening of the
urethra and multiply. The urethra is the
tubular structure that delivers urine from the bladder and expels it from the
body. The majority of infections are a
result of one type of bacteria, Escherichia or E. coli, which can typically be
found in the colon.
In most cases, the bacteria travel to the urethra where they multiply, resulting
in an infection. Urethritis is an
infection that is limited to the urethra.
If the bacteria continue on to the bladder and multiplies, a bladder
infection called cystitis will occur. If
not treated quickly, the bacteria may continue on up the ureters, multiplying
and infecting the kidneys.
Pyelonephritis is the technical term for a kidney infection.
Who is at
are more prone to Bladder Infections than others.
Abnormalities in the urinary tract, obstructing the flow of urine, can
cause frequent infections. Enlarged
prostrate glands can cause the flow of urine to be very slow, increasing the
risk of infection as well.
Catheters placed in the urethra and bladder, are a very common cause of
infection. Individuals unable to urinate
on their own often require catheters which remain in place for an extended
period of time. Some individuals,
especially geriatric patients or those with disorders of the nervous system,
may require a catheter for the remainder of their life. Any bacteria found on the catheter can easily
cause an infection in the bladder.
Hospitals go to great lengths to try to keep catheters clean to decrease
the possibility of infection.
Those with diabetes are at higher risk for Bladder Infections due to the constant fluctuations
in their immune systems. Immune
suppressing disorders, like the AIDS virus, also increase the risk of urinary
Bladder Infections can occur in individuals of any age or sex, born with abnormalities in the
urinary tract, which may or may not be surgically corrected. While Bladder Infections are more rare in boys and younger
men, they can occur. The average rate of
Bladder Infections in women increases gradually with age.
Although scientists are unsure of the exact reason why women are more
susceptible to Bladder Infections, they suspect it may have something to do with the shorter
length of a woman’s urethra, in comparison with a man. The urethral opening of a woman is also much
closer to a source of bacteria, the anus, than a man’s. Sexual intercourse, for a woman, seems to
often cause an infection (although the exact reason is unknown).
the symptoms of a Bladder Infection?
Bladder Infections do not cause
symptoms in all individuals; however, most people will experience some. Frequently complained about symptoms include:
frequent urges to urinate, painful, burning sensation in the bladder or urethra
area when emptying the bladder, or blood in the urine. Many people often experience fatigue and
flu-like symptoms along with constant pain.
Although many experience the constant urge to urinate, quite often very
little urine will actually be released if at all. Urine expelled from the bladder during a Bladder Infection
may have a strange appearance, looking cloudy, milky, or tinged with red (if
there is blood present). Fevers are not
typical if the Bladder Infection remains in the bladder, however, a fever will occur if the
infections travels to the kidneys; causing other symptoms such as nausea,
vomiting, and back pain in the area of the kidneys.
Symptoms in children are often overlooked or misdiagnosed. Children and infants often exude signs of
irritatiblity, lack of appetite, unexplained fever, diarrhea or
incontinence. It is likely that children
will experience unexplainable fevers with a regular Bladder Infection, unlike adults. Bladder Infections can occur in both girls and boys. Children should immediately been seen by a
physician if they show any of these signs, which may indicate a possible
How is a Bladder Infection
Simple urine tests
are done to diagnose Bladder Infections, in search of the presence of pus or bacteria in the
urine. Often, it will be necessary for
you to give a “clean catch” sample of urine by cleansing the genital area prior
to catching your urine midstream in a sterile container. The “clean catch” method prevents any
additional bacteria present on or near your genitalia from contaminating the
sample you provide, allowing your physician to more accurately diagnose
you. Samples are generally sent to a
lab, although some physician’s offices are equipped to handle the testing on
In Urinalysis, technicians in a lab examine urine for traces of white or red
blood cells as well as bacteria. If
bacteria is found, it will be grown in a culture after which different
bacterias will be tested against it, to see which bacteria is most appropriate
and effective for treating the infection.
This is referred to as a “sensitivity test”.
such as Chlamydia and Mycoplasma, can only be detected within specific
bacterial cultures. An infection of this
nature is suspected when a patient complains of typical Bladder Infection symptons, pus is
found in the urine, but bacteria will not grow in the standard culture.
If antibiotics cannot clear up the infection, regardless of what the
sensitivity test results have shown, physicians may questions the integrity of
the patient’s system. Often, texts will
be ordered, such as intravenous pyelogram, which allows for x-ray images of the
kidneys, bladder, and ureters to be taken in great detail. The opaque dye that is injected intravenously
travels through these organs, after which x-rays are taken. The film developed from these x-rays will
show the entire urinary tract, making any abnormality apparent.
Patients, who experience recurring infections, may also be required to undergo
an ultrasound in this same area. If
results are hide to find using an ultrasound, physicians may resort to using a
cystoscope, a hollow tube containing several lenses and a light, which allows
your physician to see the entire inner lanscape of your bladder and urethra.
How is a Bladder Infection
generally used to treat Bladder Infections. Which
specific antibiotic, and the length the patient must take it, are specific to
the patient’s history as well as the results gathered through whatever
diagnostic tests were ordered. Often
times, the sensitivity test exposes the most effective antibiotic for the
specific infection. Typical Bladder Infections,
uncomplicated by other issues, are usually treated with the following:
trimethoprim (Trimpex), trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra,
Cotrim), amoxicillin (Amoxil, Trimox, Wymox), nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin,
Furadantin), and ampicillin (Omnipen, Polycillin, Principen, Totacillin). Quinolones
are a group of four drugs, recently
approved by the FDA, for treating Bladder Infections.
These include: ofloxacin (Floxin), norfloxacin (Noroxin), ciprofloxacin
(Cipro), and trovafloxin (Trovan).
Uncomplicated Bladder Infections are often cured within a day or two of treatment. Physicians often prescribe a longer duration
of medication to ensure that the infection has been completely eradicated. Single-dose treatment are not used for
patients who show signs of further complications as a result of the Bladder Infection, or who
have a history of complicated Bladder Infections. Extended treatment roBladder Infectionnes are also necessary
for patients diagnosed with Mycoplasma or Chlamydia. Typically these are treated tetracycline,
trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMZ), or doxycycline. Follow-up urinalysis is often ordered, to
ensure that the urinary tract is free of all infection. It is crucial that patients follow the exact
treatment regiment prescribed by their physician, to ensure that the infection
is completely gone, regardless of whether or not symptoms disappear before the
medication has been completed.
Hospitalization will occur with patients who are severely ill with kidney
infections. Several weeks of antibiotics
are typically necessary with a kidney infection. Kidney damage or failure may occur if the
infection goes untreated for an extended period of time.
Recurrent Infections in Women
Women who have
experienced three Bladder Infections are more likely to experience recurring infection. Women experiencing this problem may ask their
physicians about different forms of treatment, such as:
- Low doses of
an antibiotic, such as TMP/SMZ or nitrofurantoin, on a daily basis for 6
- Single dose of
antibiotics after sexual intercourse.
- Short course
(1-2 days) of antibiotics at the first sign of symptoms.
Women can also roBladder Infectionnely following these preventative measures:
- Drink plenty
of water daily.
- Do not wait
once you experience the urge to urinate.
- Wiping one’s
genitalia from front to back, preventing the sharing of bacteria from the
anus to the vagina or urethra.
instead of soaking in a tub.
one’s genitalia prior to engaging in sexual intercourse.
- Avoid the use
of feminine sprays, scented douches, or douching all together.
physicians suggest regularly drinking cranberry juice, which is a
Infections During Pregnancy
Bladder Infections experienced
during pregnancy should be promptly treated, to avoid premature births as well
as other risks. Not all antibiotics are
safe during pregnancy therefore, physicians take into account many different
factors, such as the drug’s effectiveness, term of the pregnancy, mother’s
physical health, and potential negative side effects the drug could have on the
from an obstruction in the urinary tract or other disorders, require different
methods to cure, sometimes requiring surgery.
If the root of the problem is not treated, patients may be at risk for
damage to the kidneys.
Infections in Men
Bladder Infections in men are
typically a result of a urinary obstruction, such as a urinary stone, catheter
or swollen prostrate. Physicians must
determine which organism is causing the infection, and what antibiotic is most
effective in eradicating it. Lengthier
therapy is typically prescribed for men than women, to prevent infection to the
Infections of the prostate (chronic bacterial prostatitis) are more challenging
to cure, as antibiotics will not be absorbed into the tissue of the infected
prostate very well. Men with
prostatitis, require long-term treatment roBladder Infectionnes with a very carefully chosen
antibiotic. Older men typically
experience Bladder Infections associated with acute bacterial prostatitis, causing severe
complications if left untreated for too long.
a vaccine to prevent recurring Bladder Infections?
Potentially, in the
future, scientists may discover a vaccine that can prevent recurring Bladder Infections. Researchers have discovered a connection
between children and women who experience Bladder Infections, involving a lack of proteins
called immunoglobulins, which fight infection.
Immunoglobulins are found in normal levels within the urinary tract and
genitalia of children and women who do not experience recurring Bladder Infections.
Test results show that a certain vaccine helps patients build their natural
power to fight infection. The dormant
bacteria found in the vaccine do not spread as in an infection; rather, they
cause the body to produce antibodies which will be available later to fight
live organisms of the same nature. Scientists
are currently testing both intravenous and oral vaccines to see which is more
effective and efficient. Women may also
eventually have to option to apply the vaccine as a suppository which will be
placed into the vagina for absorption.