Bladder Infection: Symptoms, Causes, Tests and Exams, Expectations (prognosis), and Possible Complications

bladder infection diagnosis

Bladder Infection, also known as Cystitis, is a condition in which a bacterial infection causes inflammation of the bladder, and sometimes it affects kidneys as well.

Bladder infections (bacterial cystitis) may be mild, and they can get cured without treatment.

However, they can be persistent and produce even worst conditions if ignored. Infection can spread from the bladder to the kidneys.

Bladder infections during pregnancy need to be treated with antibiotics immediately, since any spread to the kidneys may cause severe complications.

Such condition can even produce an infection of the urinary tract (UTI). The virus can spread to different areas of the urinary tract, including:

  • Bladder: An infection in the bladder is also called cystitis or bladder infection.
  • Kidneys: An infection of one or both organs is called pyelonephritis or kidney infection.
  • Ureters: Ducts that carry urine from each kidney to the bladder are only rarely the only site of an infection.
  • Urethra: An infection of the duct that carries urine from the bladder to the outside is called urethritis.


The primary signs of bladder infections are a discomfort on urination, an urge to urinate frequently, and dull pain in the lower abdomen.

The urine may appear cloudy, contain blood, or smell more unpleasant than usual. Symptoms may be missed in very young children, or in older adults who have dementia.

Bladder Infection Causes

Various bacteria can cause most bladder infections. Such viruses usually start their journey through the digestive tract.

Women are more likely to get bladder infections than men. Sometimes women get infected after sexual intercourse, which can irritate.

Spermicide use also increases the risk of infection, as does the use of a diaphragm contraceptive. There is no clear evidence that using a tampon during periods increases the risk of suffering from the disease.

Having a catheter for urination, which some patients might need for various surgical procedures, increases the risk of infection. Some sufferers acquire Bladder infections in the hospital.

Most UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the urethra and then into the bladder. The infection develops most often in the bladder but can spread to the kidneys. Most of the time, the body can get rid of these bacteria. However, certain conditions increase the risk of UTI.

Women tend to contract them more often because their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus than in men. Because of this, women are more likely to get an infection after sexual activity or to use a diaphragm for birth control. Menopause also increases the risk of a UTI.

The following factors also increase your chances of having a UTI:

  • Diabetes.
  • Advanced age and diseases that affect personal care habits (such as Alzheimer’s and delirium).
  • Problems to empty the bladder.
  • Having a bladder catheter.
  • Intestinal Incontinence.
  • Enlarged prostate, narrow urethra, or any other factor that blocks the flow of urine.
  • Kidney stones.
  • Staying still (immobile) for an extended period (for example, while recovering from a hip fracture).
  • Pregnancy.
  • Surgery or other procedure in the urinary tract.

Bladder infection is rarer in men, partly because the tube from the bladder (the urethra) is longer in men than in women. Prostate problems may increase the risk of a bladder infection in men.

Bladder Infection Tests and Exams

Usually, you will need to provide a urine sample for the following tests:

Urine analysis. This test is done to look for white blood cells, red blood cells, bacteria and detect certain chemicals like nitrites in the urine. Most of the time, this test can diagnose an infection.

Urine culture in a clean sample. This test can be done to identify the bacteria and determine the best antibiotic for treatment.

Medical experts can perform Blood tests like a complete blood count (CBC) and blood culture.

Treatments for Bladder infections

Cranberry juice is a traditional remedy for preventing recurrent bladder infections. A recent Cochrane review (a careful analysis of relevant scientific studies) suggested that the benefits of cranberry juice, if any, were small.

Sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, or potassium citrate are sometimes taken to ease the pain during urination but don’t cure the disease.

These chemicals tend to make the urine alkaline. They should not be used by those getting treated with the antibiotic nitrofurantoin or methenamine.

Painkillers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (paracetamol), can be used to alleviate discomfort. They will not cure the underlying bacterial infection.

Antibiotics are needed to treat bladder infections that don’t clear up of their own accord. Patients can use some oral medicines, such as trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, nitrofurantoin, and amoxicillin/clavulanic acid.

It’s always important to finish a course of antibiotics, even if all symptoms have gone, to prevent bacteria surviving and multiplying again.

Resistance to antibiotics is an increasing problem. Physicians may have to prescribe another medicine if the first one doesn’t work.

In the case of those women whose bladder infections tend to occur after sexual intercourse, antibiotics may get prescribed for them to take after sex.

Methenamine is sometimes used to treat bladder infections. When the urine in the bladder is acidic, methenamine breaks down to give formaldehyde, which destroys the bacteria present.

This medication works better for some people than others since the acidity of the urine can vary. Unlike conventional antibiotics, bacterial resistance doesn’t occur.

Some patients use Methenamine with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or ammonium chloride; these compounds are meant to make the urine more acidic than it would otherwise have been, although not all studies have shown a significant effect.

Doctors prescribe Topical Vaginal Estrogen Creams to post-menopausal women who have had bladder infections.

The purpose is to prevent harmful bacteria colonizing the vagina, which may then lead to bladder infections.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most UTIs can get cured. The symptoms of a bladder infection in most cases disappear within 24 to 48 hours after the start of treatment.

If you have a kidney infection, it may take one week or longer for your symptoms to go away.

Possible Complications.

  • Life-threatening blood infection (sepsis). The risk is higher for young people, older adults, and those whose bodies can not fight diseases (e.g., due to HIV or chemotherapy for cancer).
  • Kidney scarring or damage.
  • Kidney infection.