When you feel the need to pee every half hour or so, it gets terribly annoying, especially if you happen to be neck-deep in work, meeting deadlines and appointments. With the busy schedule a modern person keeps these days, a bladder infection is the last thing anyone needs.
Bladder infections, medically known as cystitis, happen when there is an inflammation of the bladder. In most cases, the inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, usually termed by most as a urinary tract infection (UTI).
The human urinary system is made up of the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder, and the urethra. The main purpose of the urinary system is to remove the liquid waste of your body. The kidneys filter all the waste that is carried by the blood as well as adjust the compositions of many substances in your body. The wastes are in the form of urine, and these are transferred to the bladder via tubes called ureters, where they remain stored until the bladder becomes full enough that you need to discharge its contents through urination.
Causes of a Bladder Infection
The problem occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract by way of the urethra. Normally, this doesn’t happen, as the urinary system is designed in such a way that it keeps out such invaders. The bladder, for example, secretes a protective coating that keeps bacteria from sticking to its walls. The urine also has properties that kill or pre-empt the growth of bacteria. Urination itself is a way to kick bacteria in the bladder out of your system. However, there are still factors that enable bacteria to gain foothold in the bladder and cause a full-blown infection.
The most common bacterium that is responsible for most bladder infections is the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterium, normally found in the lower gastrointestinal tract. Normally, it is harmless when it remains in the intestinal tract, but when it goes to the urethra, it starts to pose a problem. There are many ways bacteria can spread into the urinary tract and bladder. Sexual intercourse, especially if done frequently and without protection, is a major cause, as the bacteria can be introduced through the urethra during the activity. However, since the female genital area often holds bacteria that can cause bladder infections, even non-sexually active women and girls can contract bladder and urinary tract infections.
Although the most common cause of bladder infections is bacteria, there are other causes that are non-infectious in nature. For example, certain medications like chemotherapy drugs can inflame your bladder as the substances that make up these medications are being sent out of your body. Radiation in the pelvic area can also cause inflammatory changes in the bladder and its tissues. Prolonged and careless use of foreign objects such as catheters can expose you to the risk of bacteria and damage your bladder tissue, both of which can cause an inflammation on your bladder. Finally, bladder infections can be the result of complications of other more serious conditions like gynecological cancer, endometriosis, or even lupus.
People with bladder infections often feel the urge to pee frequently, often passing small amounts of urine. There can also be a painful, often burning, sensation while peeing. Sometimes, the urine is cloudy and foul-smelling. A feeling of pressure in the lower pelvis can also be felt.
As mentioned, bladder infections are rarely fatal, although they may pose a problem if left untreated. Treatment consists of antibiotic medications but mostly, self-care treatments are enough to get rid of the condition.
Remedies for Bladder Infections
Check with your physician for the exact kind of bladder infection you have. Not all bladder infections are bacterial in nature. Determine what the exact cause of your infection is before undergoing any medical treatment. You will only be doing more harm than good if you’re taking antibacterial medication when in fact your bladder infection is non-infectious in nature (interstitial cystitis, for example, is an injury of the bladder causing constant irritation and it rarely has the presence of infection). Your physician will be able to determine what kind of bladder infection you have and will prescribe the necessary and correct treatment.
Take antibiotics for bacterial bladder infection. If your bladder infection is caused by bacteria, then your physician will recommend the correct antibiotic you will need to take. How long you’re going to take it and what kind will depend on the bacteria found in your bladder. Just make sure that your physician knows your medical history, though. There are some people who are allergic to certain medications.
Depending on the severity of the infection, you may have to take the medicine for up to a week. Be sure to take the full antibiotic course prescribed by your doctor to ensure that all bacterial strains are eradicated. Sexually active people may be required to take antibiotics before any sexual activity.
Drink lots of fluids. Drinking lots of fluids will induce urination, and this, in turn, will help cleanse your bladder of the bacteria that plagues you. Keep away from coffee and alcohol, however, as they tend to irritate your bladder more, worsening the situation instead of helping it.
Cranberry juice, in particular, is a very good way to help get rid of the infection. There is a component in quality cranberry juice called hippuric acid, which acidifies your urine and helps keep the bacteria from sticking to your bladder. Make sure that it is 100% cranberry juice, though, and not the cocktail type you can buy in supermarkets. If you can’t stomach the taste of pure cranberry juice, there are cranberry capsule substitutes you can take instead.
Observe proper hygiene. Be sure to keep your genital and anal areas free from bacteria. Before and after sexual intercourse, urinate to remove any bacteria that may have potentially got in the urethra. Also, after a bowel movement, make sure to wipe front to back, and not the other way around. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap
after engaging in sexual activities.
If your bladder infection keeps coming back, contact your physician as soon as possible. Complications from bladder infections include kidney infections that may permanently damage your kidneys. In cases such as this, a complete and thorough diagnosis is important.
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