What are the causes of and what are the symptoms of bladder infections?
External bacteria traveling up the urethra is one of the main causes of bladder infections. This explains, in part, why a woman is more likely to develop a bladder infection than a man: the female urethra is much shorter than the male's and bacteria can gain entrance to the bladder more easily.
The kidneys may be a source of bacteria that cause the bladder infection. In such instances, kidney infection would be the primary concern. Infections of the kidney are potentially very serious. Any bladder infection can, in turn, cause further problems and warrants immediate medical attention.
Another cause of bladder infections is a blockage in the bladder or urethra, which hinders urine flow and prevents the bladder from emptying completely. Residual urine remaining in the bladder increases the chances that bacteria will multiply and establish an infection in the bladder. The main culprits of blockages are kidney and bladder stones, but an enlarged prostate can also cause a blockage, and bacteria from an unhealthy prostate can pass into the bladder.
Women who use diaphragms have an increased risk for developing a bladder infection.
Contributing factors to bladder infections include catheter use in hospitals or at home and neurogenic disorders. With a neurogenic disorder, the bladder nerves fail to send the correct messages to the brain leading to incomplete voiding of the bladder (I.e., some urine remains after each emptying).
Bladder Infection Symptoms
Itchiness and a burning sensation while urinating, along with the urge to urinate even when the bladder is empty are the most common bladder infection symptoms. Less common symptoms include fevers, unusual discharge from the urethra, dark, cloudy urine or evidence of blood in the urine.
These are not the symptoms reported by many elderly patients with bladder infection, however. Instead, there are less obvious signs, such as a loss of appetite or a change in eating habits. The sudden onset of confusion may also indicate a bladder infection in the elderly patient.
Treatment for Bladder Infections
Bladder infections are usually treated with antibiotics, and treatment generally lasts one to two weeks. The infection itself may clear up with three to four days of medication, but most doctors prefer a longer period of medication to ensure that the infection does not recur.
For women who suffer from recurrent bladder infections (3 to 4 a year), doctors may prescribe long-term antibiotics. Some patients may be required to take the medication for up to six months.
Preventing Bladder Infections
While many of the causes of bladder infection are out of our control, taking some preventive measures can reduce the chance of infection.
Stay hydrated: drink six to eight glasses of water a day.
Avoid tight, constricting clothes and synthetic underwear.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine beverages.
Women should urinate before and after intercourse, to help clean out bacteria.
Women should wipe from front to back after urinating to move potential bacteria away from the urethra
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