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What is a bladder infection?

A bladder infection or urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that’s caused by bacteria in the bladder. It is sometimes also called a water infection or cystitis.

Your urinary tract is made up of four parts.

  • The bladder and urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) form the lower urinary tract. Infections here are more common and usually mild and easy to treat.
  • The kidneys and ureters (the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder) form the upper urinary tract. Infections here are much more serious and could pose a risk to your long-term health.

If you think you have a bladder infection, it’s very important to get your symptoms checked out early, before the bacteria has a chance to spread to your upper urinary tract.

Our doctors can arrange for a simple test to confirm a diagnosis, if necessary, and prescribe effective antibiotics that will clear up your bladder infection in just a few days.

Who is affected by bladder infections?

Bladder infections are much more common among women, who account for around 90% of cases.

The main reason for this is that the urethra is much shorter in women than men. The female urethra is normally around 4cm, while for men it can measure up to 20cm. This means that bacteria don’t have to travel as far to reach a woman’s bladder.

Men can get bladder infections too, but they are very rare before the age of 50. When they do happen, it’s usually caused by an enlarged prostate, which puts pressure on the point where the urethra meets the bladder and makes it difficult to fully empty it.

Bladder infection symptoms

The most obvious signs of a bladder infection are:

  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • Cloudy or smelly urine
  • Blood in your urine
  • Needing to urinate more than usual
  • Not being able to fully empty your bladder
  • Stomach pain
  • eeling generally unwell

Symptoms are usually acute, meaning they come on suddenly. However, some people (usually women) suffer from chronic bladder infections, where their symptoms regularly return a few weeks after successful treatment.

Find out more about bladder infection symptoms.

Bladder infection diagnosis

Our doctors will listen to your symptoms and run through a few common bladder infection causes. If the information you give suggests you have one, they can arrange treatment straight away.

If the symptoms are not typical or the symptoms haven’t cleared with antibiotics already, we can send a simple test kit direct to your home. This comes with a detailed instruction booklet that explains how to collect your sample and send it to our laboratory.

Our analysts will look at your sample and identify the bacteria responsible for your infection. Your results will be available in just a few days and will help the doctor prescribe the most effective treatment.

Find out more about how our doctors can diagnose your bladder infection.

What causes bladder infections?

Bladder infections tend to occur for one of two reasons:

  • Bacteria from the bowels getting into the urinary tract and working its way along to the bladder
  • Irritation or damage to the bladder lining

For women, the common risk factors include:

  • Having sex
  • Wiping your bottom from back to front
  • Tampons
  • The diaphragm method of contraception
  • The menopause
  • Pregnancy

Bladder infections in men can be caused by:

  • An enlarged prostate
  • Anal sex
  • Being uncircumcised

Other factors, such as perfumed bath products, diabetes, catheters, a blockage in the urinary tract or recreational drug use can affect either gender.

Read more on what causes bladder infections, and why these risk factors increase your chances of getting one.

Bladder infection treatment

Once a diagnosis is made, our doctors can prescribe effective antibiotics that will usually clear up your bladder infection in just a few days.

Our prescription service allows you to collect your medication from a pharmacy near where you are when you consult. Our team will get in contact with your local pharmacy, make sure they have your medication in stock and send you a message when it’s available for collection.

Our doctors can also provide a repeat prescription if you suffer from chronic bladder infections.

They can also advise you about self-care techniques that can reduce your chances of a bladder infection.

Find out more about bladder infection treatment.

Bladder infection in pregnancy

Bladder infections are fairly common during pregnancy. While they won’t harm your baby if they’re properly treated, leaving the infection untreated could mean it spreads to the kidneys, which could put the health of you and your baby at risk. There is also a risk of going into labor early and of the baby having a low birth weight.

As well as the causes that affect all women, pregnancy increases your chances of a bladder infection in a number of ways:

  • Your baby might press on your bladder as it grows
  • Your urine may contain more sugar than usual, which is an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply
  • You may have more trouble cleaning your self in the usual way given your increasing bump size.

Our doctors will prescribe antibiotics that are safe for you to take during pregnancy and won’t harm your baby.

Find out more about treating bladder infections during pregnancy.