To Carrie, 44, it was that familiar feeling. It hurt when she urinated.
When she saw the doctor the following day, she was relieved to find out that she probably had only a bladder infection instead of a more widespread issue.
A bladder infection is one of several problems that fall under the umbrella of a urinary tract infection (UTI). The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. According to the Mayo Clinic, while an infection can arise in any one of these parts, most incidences occur in the lower urinary tract, which includes the urethra and the bladder.
Women develop far more urinary tract infections than men do. While a UTI confined to a patient’s bladder can be very painful, it’s a lot less serious than one that spreads to the kidneys.
Doctors typically prescribe antibiotics after listening to the patient’s symptoms and running a urine culture. Symptoms of a bladder infection can develop very quickly. The most common signs of a UTI include a strong and persistent urge to urinate, a burning sensation during urination and passing small but frequent amounts of urine. Patients can also have blood in the urine – known as hematuria – or urine that’s cloudy and strong-smelling. Sometimes tests show bacteria in the urine, a condition known as bacteriuria.
Infections in the various parts of the urinary tract have somewhat specific symptoms related to the respective anatomical part. A bladder infection, also known as cystitis, usually causes pelvic pressure and discomfort in the individual’s lower abdomen. It’s characterized by frequent and painful urination. A low-grade fever is also common.
Patients suffering from an infection in the urethra can experience burning upon urination. Those with an infection in one or both kidneys typically experience upper back and side pain. A high fever, shaking, chills, nausea and vomiting are also common symptoms.
MedicineNet.com suggests that in children, bladder or other urinary tract infections are often overlooked or misdiagnosed as another type of disorder. Symptoms in children including acting irritable, nor eating normally and having a fever that won’t go away on its own. Some children have signs of incontinence or loose bowels. Others appear not to be thriving.
Certain individuals are at elevated risk for developing bladder infections, the Mayo Clinic reports. Being female is at the top of the list. One half of all women develop a URI during their lives. Many of those experience multiple episodes. Doctors attribute this to women having a shorter urethra than that found in males.
Being a person who is sexually active tends to create a higher risk for a UTI. This is because sexual activity can irritate the urethra, particular in women. This lets germs more easily pass through the urethra to the bladder.
Using diaphragms and spermicidal agents for birth control apparently raises the odds of a bladder infection. Having kidney stones, diabetes and certain other chronic illnesses increase the risk, as does the aging process. Patients who use catheters in the bladder for a prolonged time also have an elevated risk of developing this type of infection.
Fortunately, most bladder infections seldom lead to complications if they’re treated promptly and correctly. However, if medically untreated, a UTI can lead to acute or chronic kidney infections and permanent kidney damage. A pregnant woman who develops a UTI could have an elevated risk of delivering a premature baby or one with a low birth weight.