Many women know the signs of a bladder infection only too well: they have to go to the toilet very often, it stings and burns when they urinate. The symptoms are often very unpleasant, but can be easily treated.
An uncomplicated cystitis usually heals without any problems. Antibiotics help well, but are not always necessary.
Unfortunately there is no patent remedy to reliably prevent cystitis. Moreover, many tips for prevention have not yet been scientifically investigated.
People who have a bladder infection often have to urinate and may feel a sharp pain or burning sensation. So not only do you have to go to the toilet more often, it can also be very unpleasant.
For many women, the pain increases when their bladder is almost or completely empty. Often the urge to urinate comes very quickly, so that they suddenly have to go to the toilet – but only small amounts of urine are usually released. Some women have difficulty holding their urine, which can be very stressful. The urine can be cloudy in color and smell conspicuous, sometimes there is even blood.
The pain can radiate into the whole abdomen or back. A severe bladder infection can make you feel sick and tired, irritable and unable to sleep.
It is also possible that there are no symptoms – but bacteria can be detected in a urine test. This is known as asymptomatic bacteriuria. This is usually harmless.
An uncomplicated cystitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the urinary bladder. The inflammation is normally caused by bacteria that rise up the urethra into the bladder and multiply there.
Sexual intercourse increases the risk of cystitis because bacteria can get into the urethra. Spermicidal contraceptive creams and gels and diaphragms can also slightly increase the risk.
Pregnant women are more likely to get cystitis. People who wear a bladder catheter also have an increased risk – as well as people with anatomical changes in the urinary tract, diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis or urological diseases.
Women who have already had a bladder infection are more likely to get it again. Bladder infections are more frequent from the menopause onwards.
Frequency (Some statistics)
Women get a bladder infection much more often than men because their urethra is shorter. Bacteria therefore reach the bladder more easily. About 10 out of 100 women get a bladder infection at least once a year. Half of these women get another one within a year.
One speaks of an uncomplicated bladder infection if the symptoms are limited to the lower urinary tract – i.e. the bladder and urethra – and there are no risk factors for a serious course or consequential damage. It can be easily treated and usually heals without any problems.
One speaks of a complicated bladder infection if there is an increased risk of complications. Men, people with a weakened immune system or with already damaged kidneys have an increased risk of complications. Changes or anatomical peculiarities in the urinary tract can also favor a complicated course. Even if there is an increased risk that the inflammation will spread to the kidneys, it is a complicated inflammation. Inflammation of the renal pelvis (pyelonephritis) can occur when bacteria continue to rise up the ureters and into the kidneys.
If the following symptoms occur, a doctor’s surgery or clinic should be consulted quickly:
pain in the kidney area (flank pain)
Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms may indicate that the renal pelvis has become inflamed. Inflammation of the renal pelvis can be dangerous and should be treated quickly to avoid consequential damage. However, it is very rare.
On the basis of the symptoms and the medical history, a doctor can assess whether or not it is an uncomplicated bladder infection. In addition, a urine sample can be taken in the doctor’s surgery and examined with a test strip. Further urine tests are usually not necessary if the symptoms are clear.
The doctor can examine the kidneys and bladder with an ultrasound machine (sonography). This examination is usually only useful in complicated or recurring bladder infections. Cystoscopy or x-rays are also very rarely necessary – for example, in the case of severe and recurrent bladder infections. In a cystoscopy, a tube with a small camera at the end (endoscope) is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. The camera provides images that show possible changes in the bladder wall.
A visit to a family doctor’s practice is often sufficient. However, a gynecological or urological practice can also be visited.
Some bladder infections come “out of the blue” without any apparent cause. Women who suffer more frequently from cystitis can pay attention in their everyday life to what causes them to get cystitis. If these triggers cannot be turned off and bladder infections still occur frequently, there is also the possibility of taking medication for prevention.
These drugs can prevent cystitis – but they need to be used regularly. However, they also have side effects.
For many women, a bladder infection is a unique and unpleasant thing. For others it is a constant source of discomfort. Antibiotics usually help with acute cystitis quite quickly and shorten the duration of the illness. But they are not always necessary. Because uncomplicated bladder infections heal within a week in 30 to 50 out of 100 women, even without antibiotics – and complications are not usually expected if they are not taken. However, antibiotics are indispensable for complicated cystitis. Whether antibiotics are useful can be discussed with the doctor.
Painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen can be an alternative to antibiotics for mild or moderate symptoms. They relieve the pain until the body has fought off the bacteria itself. There are also some home remedies that can help relieve the symptoms – for example, drinking a lot or keeping warm.