Overview: what is a bladder infection?
Bladder infection (cystitis) is a common infectious disease. A bladder infection occurs when pathogens, usually intestinal bacteria, colonise the bladder and cause inflammation. Typical symptoms are a strong urge to urinate, trouble with urinating and urination that’s accompanied by a painful and burning sensation. Preventive measures include keeping warm, drinking more fluids and practising correct intimate hygiene.
Symptoms of a bladder infection
An acute bladder infection is indicated by trouble with urinating and a painful, burning feeling when doing so. Patients may experience an annoying, increased urge to pee both during the day and at night. Although the urge to pee feels stronger, the result is sometimes just a small dribble.
The urine may smell foul and look cloudy or even reddish-brown, as it may also contain a little blood. Patients also speak of an uncontrolled loss of urine and a dull cramp-like pain in the bladder area.
Causes – how does a bladder infection occur?
80% of all bladder infections are caused by intestinal bacteria (Escherichia coli). Women are more frequently affected, as the urethra is shorter in females and closer to the anus. This makes it easy for intestinal bacteria to enter the bladder.
Faktoren, die eine Blasenentzündung begünstigen:
- Incorrect intimate hygiene after a bowel movement
- Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner
- Medication (e.g. cortisone, antibiotics)
- Diabetes, enlarged prostate
- Diseases/anomalies of the urinary tract (e.g. bladder descent, urinary stones, urethral stricture, tumours)
- Foreign bodies (e.g. urinary catheter, intimate jewellery, sex toys)
There are a number of preventive measures that can be taken to avoid bladder infections. These include:
- Avoid getting too cold. Keep your feet and back (kidneys) warm.
- Intimate hygiene: wipe from the bladder backwards towards the anus, refrain from using vaginal douches or intimate sprays
- Go to the toilet and empty your bladder immediately after sexual intercourse
- Be sure to fully empty the bladder
- Drink plenty of fluids: more than two litres of unsweetened fluids every day (if you have a known heart or kidney condition, consult your doctor first)
Household remedies: what can I do myself?
A bladder infection doesn’t necessarily need antibiotic treatment. At the onset of symptoms, soothing warmth and beneficial drinks can help minimise the pain. Such remedies include:
- A heat pad, heated cushion or hot water bottle (relaxes the bladder and pelvis, relieves pain)
- Cranberry extract or juice: supports the bladder mucosa and has an anti-inflammatory effect
- Common painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol (read the package insert)
- Herbal products from the pharmacy (e.g. dietary supplement with D-mannose)
Bladder infection: when to see a doctor?
If household remedies don’t bring any real improvement after two days, it’s best to see your family doctor. A consultation is also recommended if you have a high temperature, experience back or flank pain around the kidneys or if your urine is reddish in colour or contains pus. As a general rule, recurring bladder infections should be checked.
Diagnosis: treatment by your doctor or in hospital
When visiting the doctor with a suspected bladder infection, you’ll first be asked to go to the toilet and provide a urine sample in a small beaker. This will be followed by a chemical and microscopic examination. The examination will check for the presence of bacteria and enable a diagnosis to be made. A blood test may also be conducted. Complicated bladder infections require an ultrasound and/or a cystoscopy.
Treatment: possible therapies for a bladder infection
Complicated and chronic bladder inflammations are treated with antibiotics. The following therapies can also help with recurring bladder infections:
- Taking D-mannose
- Surgery for mechanical obstructions such as constrictions, urinary stones, tumours