A bladder infection, or cystitis, is a type of urinary tract infection. It is caused by fungi, bacteria or viruses that invade the bladder and begin to multiply. Most are caused by bacteria that normally live in the bowel.
Overall, women are more likely than men to develop urinary tract infections. That's mainly because women have a shorter urethra, which gives the bacteria easier access to the bladder.
When a bladder infection is present, the symptoms are usually fairly obvious. It’s often indicated by a frequent urge to urinate, as well as an intense and painful burning feeling in the bladder during urination. Urine may become darker or cloudy, have blood in it or smell bad. If the infection spreads beyond the bladder, it can cause other symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness and general abdominal pain.
Causes of Bladder Infections
Sometimes, little can be done to prevent a bladder infection, but there are a few things that increase your risk. One simple risky activity, for example, is simply wiping from the back to the front after a bowel movement. Sexual activity also increases the number of bacteria overall in the urinary tract. In addition, some forms of birth control further increase the risk for women. A medical issue that requires a catheter in the urethra or bladder also opens the door for a potential bladder infection. And health concerns like diabetes or compromised immunity will also put you at an increased risk for infection.
The vast majority of bladder infections are easy to detect and treat. Because most are caused by bacteria, a course of antibiotics will usually cure the infection and have the patient feeling better within two or three days. With more severe infections or complications, a stay in the hospital might be required to heal from a bladder infection.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; U.S. Office on Women's Health