Updated January 2014
Bladder infections occur when bacteria travel into the bladder which is normally sterile. They are also called urinary tract infections (UTIs) or cystitis.
Bladder infections occur when bacteria that normally live in the intestines and on the genitals get into the urethra (the tube that passes urine out of the body) and travel up into the bladder. A bladder infection can become quite painful. It can also become quite serious if the bacteria are able to travel further up to the kidneys. In pregnancy, bladder infections are more likely to travel to the kidneys and can cause serious damage if not treated.
Bladder infections are very common in women. Women get them more often than men because the urethra is shorter in women. Men may get them if there is a blockage of the urethra caused by a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate gland.
The typical symptoms of a bladder infection include:
Additional more serious symptoms may include:
Usually your health care provider will examine you and check your urine sample for white blood cells and other indicators of infection. They may also send a sample of your urine to the laboratory for analysis. The symptoms of a bladder infection can be similar to a sexually transmitted infection. It is important to discuss appropriate STI testing with your healthcare provider.
In some cases if a persistent bladder infection is not treated, it can get worse and eventually lead to a kidney infection. Although most kidney infections do not cause permanent damage, delaying treatment can lead to complications.
If you think you have a bladder infection, see your health care provider as soon as possible. Once antibiotics are started your symptoms should resolve in a day or two. It is still important to finish all of the treatment given to you even if you feel better. It is also helpful to drink lots of water but this should not replace treatment.
Bladder infections are not passed from person to person. Treatment is not needed for your sexual partner.
Call the Sexual Health Infoline Ontario at 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437
Safer sex: To reduce your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex.