Bladder Infection Basics

Bladder Health, Featured Article, Women's Health
on November 24, 2011

Bladder infection, medically known as cystitis, is an extremely common malady, especially in women. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), women are especially vulnerable to infections of the urinary tract, including the bladder.

Bladder infection implications. Bladder infections are not life-threatening and can be easily cleared up with appropriate treatment if they're caught early. Left untreated, they can cause more serious complications, such as kidney infection, which can be life-threatening. In older adults, symptoms can be less obvious and attributed to secondary effects of aging, which can make bladder infections more difficult to definitively diagnose.

Higher infection risks. Many women get bladder infections following sexual intercourse, a term coined "honeymoon cystitis." Women who use diaphragms as a means of contraception tend to be more prone to bladder infections, as spermicide may contribute to bacterial growth. Pregnant women are susceptible to bladder infections because the expanding fetus presses on the bladder, preventing it from being completely emptied upon urination. The use of urinary catheters can also increase the risk of developing a bladder infection. The catheter tube that's placed in the bladder can serve as a "wick" or conduit for bacteria to invade and infect the bladder. This is seen in both home-bound as well as hospital patients. Finally, the thinning and loss of muscle tone often associated with menopause can lead to difficulties emptying the bladder properly. The remaining stagnant urine is an ideal place for bacteria to incubate, and rapidly multiply.

Male bladder infections. While bladder infections are less common in men, they may be an indication of another underlying, more serious ailment or problem. In older men, an enlarging prostate may make it more difficult to urinate, which can cause urinary bladder stagnation. Chronic dehydration caused by insufficient fluid intake may also contribute to a bladder infection. If you suspect a bladder infection, drink plenty of fluids and make an appointment with your doctor in order to stop the infection before it travels up the urinary tract to the kidneys.