Bladder infections, also known as cystitis, are a common malady, particularly among women, that are both preventable and easily treatable. While bladder infections can be uncomfortable — even painful — they're not considered life-threatening unless they go untreated for an extended period of time. Obviously, prevention is preferable to treatment. There are preventive measures that can be useful to both men and women, and some that pertain exclusively to women.
Infection prevention for everyone. In general, diligent maintenance of good personal hygiene is the first line of defense against infection. Drink lots of water. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Drinking water helps dilute your urine and ensures that you'll urinate more frequently — allowing bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract before an infection can begin." Drinking cranberry juice and eating cranberries has been shown to keep bacteria from attaching itself to the bladder wall. Completely emptying the bladder every time you urinate can also help prevent a bladder infection. This not only rinses out any small amounts of bacteria present in the urethra, but will also reduce the possibility of bacterial growth by voiding any small pools of residual urine in the bladder, which can serve as an incubator for bacteria to multiply. Wearing natural fiber underwear and loose clothing prevents excess heat and moisture — both of which are essential for bacteria to survive and thrive — from being trapped in the groin area. Avoid beverages that can irritate the bladder, such as alcohol and coffee.
Additional measures for women. If a woman is sexually active, urinating both before and after intercourse can help to prevent a condition called "honeymoon cystitis." If you use a diaphragm for contraception, ensure that it fits properly and avoid leaving it in place for too long. Taking showers instead of baths can reduce the potential of bladder infections in women of any age. If a woman is still menstruating, using pads instead of tampons can also reduce the potential for bladder infections. Avoid the use of any perfumed personal hygiene items, including douches. These all contain chemicals that can serve to irritate the urethra and make it more susceptible to infection. In the bathroom, always wipe from front to back, which will reduce the spread of bacteria from the anal area to the urethral area. Mature women who have passed through menopause may want to speak to their physicians about using an estrogen cream that can be applied to the vaginal area to combat tissue thinning, thereby reducing the chance of infection. Eating yogurt that contains helpful bacteria called lactobacilli may also help women of all ages prevent bladder infections.