Your doctor calls it cystitis. You may know it as a bladder infection. Whatever the name, once you’ve experienced the urgency, burning, tingling, and pain of a bladder infection, you don’t ever want another one again. Bladder infections, the most common type of urinary tract infections (UTIs), are the reason over 10 million women visit their doctors each year. The bacteria that cause bladder infections, called E. coli, doesn’t come from your urine because urine is sterile. That means it doesn’t contain bacteria, viruses, or fungi. The bacteria gets into your urethra, the tube urine travels through when it leaves your bladder, from your rectal area or skin. They travel up your urethra into your bladder, where they multiply causing swelling, redness, and pain.
Causes of Bladder Infections
Women are more likely to develop UTIs than men, although men over 50 often get them because of an enlarged prostate. Anything that interferes with urine flow can contribute to an infection. The longer urine stays in your urinary tract, the more time bacteria has to get a grip and multiply. Here are two common diet deficiencies that increase your chances of contracting a bladder infection.
- Vitamin C - Researchers think compounds found in cranberries, called proanthocyanidins, help prevent bacteria from taking hold in your bladder and causing an infection. The juice is filled with Vitamin C that fends off free radicals in urine that can damage your bladder’s defenses against disease-causing bacteria.
- Zinc. This mineral gives your immune system an edge and helps fight off bacteria and may prevent the sniffles or shorten the time you have them. Research suggests it may work for bladder infections, too. The immune system uses zinc to attack E. Coli bacteria, a common cause of UTIs.
Symptoms of a Bladder Infection
Bladder Infections are the second most common type of infection in the body. You may have a urinary tract infection if you notice:
- A burning sensation accompanied by discomfort.
- Fever and fatigue.
- Frequent urge to empty the bladder.
- A heaviness in the lower belly.
- Foul smelling urine that looks reddish or cloudy.
Seniors with bladder infections (UTIs) may experience different, more severe symptoms than younger people because their immune systems are often weaker. Watch out for these lesser-known warning signs.
- Confusion - In some cases, UTIs can mimic the symptoms of dementia. If you or a loved one notice a sudden change in behavior, such as increased confusion, agitation, or sudden social withdrawal, contact a doctor immediately.
- Dizziness and falls - UTIs can cause your blood pressure to drop, which can result in dizziness and difficulty standing. In some cases, falls may also be caused by muscle weakness brought on by the infection.
Treating Bladder Infections
Most bladder infections can be prevented by following these tips.
- Don’t fight the urge. Go to the bathroom whenever you feel the need, and empty your bladder completely each time. Just remember - the longer urine sits in your bladder, the more likely it is to stagnate and allow bacteria to grow.
- Urinate before and after sex. Emptying your bladder before and after sexual intercourse washes bacteria out of your urethra. It’s also a good idea to wash your genital area before sex. This may help prevent spreading bacteria from one person to the other.
- Take a shower instead of a bath. Baths may be relaxing, but sitting in a tub of water may give bacteria an opportunity to enter your urethra. Take showers instead whenever possible. If your skin is sensitive, keep powders, soaps, creams, bath goods, or other hygiene products away from your genital area.
- Avoid foods that cause irritation. Certain foods and beverages may irritate your bladder. Common offenders include coffee, tea, alcohol, carbonated beverages, and spicy foods.
- Drink cranberry juice. Although drinking lots of water is still sound advice for keeping your urinary tract healthy, cranberry juice is finally getting support from medical experts. Researchers believe cranberry juice keeps bacteria from sticking to the walls of your urinary tract.
- Stop smoking. In case you need another reason to ditch smoking, it increases your risk for bladder infections.
If you think you have a bladder infection, ask your doctor to take a urine sample to be sure you really have one before they prescribe antibiotics. Many antibiotics have unpleasant side effects.