Bladder Infection

What actually is a bladder infection?

In the unpleasant disease cystitis (technical term: cystitis), the bladder mucosa is inflamed. Triggers are, in most cases, bacteria, or fungi. Pathogens are in 80 percent of the cases the E. coli bacteria from the rectal area. In addition, infection with a cell parasite (Chlamydia trachomatis) are observed increasingly more, especially among young women. A genetic predisposition may play a role in bacterial urinary tract infections.

How do I recognize a bladder infection?

There will be pain during urination, discomfort in the bladder area, and pressure in the abdomen. With a strong inflammation, pain can radiate to the lumbar region and into the thigh. During urination, sharp pain becomes noticeable. The urine usually smells unpleasant and looks cloudy. It may also contain blood.

Why are women more likely to get a bladder infection than are men are?

Women suffer from a bladder infection ten times more often than men do. In women, the anus, vagina, and urethra are very close together. Moreover, the female urethra is shorter than that of the male. Germs can reach the bladder more quickly and feel comfortable in this warm, humid environment. Often incorrectly performed hygiene is also a responsible. Bacteria from the intestine to the vagina have only a short way; women should therefore always clean in the direction of the anus.

Can hormonal imbalances also cause bladder infections in women?

Yes. Hormone disorders such as during menopause can destroy the protective function and make bacterial penetration very easily by changes in the mucosa. Estrogens promote the development of skin and mucosa, muscle and connective tissue. Thus, they improve the defense against infections. Sometimes stress is enough to upset the immune system and to subvert the natural defense mechanisms.

Can wearing certain types of clothing cause acute cystitis?

Under certain circumstances, yes. If the local defenses are disrupted, pathogens have an easier game. If for example the feet are only briefly exposed to temperatures below 15 degrees, the mucous membranes are purely circulated with blood. In poorly perfused mucosal tissue, infections thrive particularly well. Responsible can also be a hypothermia resulting from wearing a wet bathing suit for too long or by the trendy belly-free fashion.

Is it true that sex can lead to a bladder infection?

Quite. Physicians speak of the so-called "honeymoon cystitis." During sex, the pathogens reach the urethra by mechanical friction. Especially in the first months of a relationship or having multiple partners, it can lead to problems because the sexual partner have not adjusted in their bacterial colonization. Nevertheless, that's problem disappears in time.

Why are especially pregnant women susceptible to bladder infections?

Throughout pregnancy, the acidity of the vagina decreases. This has the result that pathogenic bacteria can settle more easily. In addition, during pregnancy, because of the size of the uterus, the urine flow from the kidneys and the bladder is negatively affected.

Can you prevent bladder infections?

Yes. You should always drink plenty (2-3 liters per day) to flush out germs, always keep warm, completely empty the bladder and do not hold back any residual urine. Shortly after sex, you should rinse with water since through sexual intercourse germs can get into the bladder. Women should avoid vaginal contraceptive creams and an exaggerated feminine hygiene (intimate sprays), and if possible, they should use only pH-neutral soap or shower gel. Also on synthetic underwear should be abandoned, as they create a warm moist environment in which bacteria multiply rapidly. Alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeinated beverages in large quantities should also be avoided. They can irritate the bladder and lead to voiding dysfunction.

Why do bladder infections recur so often?

American scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have discovered that the bacteria (usually E. coli) nest in the cells of the bladder wall and there grow into small colonies. A biofilm protects the bacteria before the can be killed by antibiotics. Since the pathogens are sitting in the bladder wall, they are virtually invisible to the immune system. From time to time, the bacterial colonies break open and released their cargo. The bladder infection flares up again.

Can there be other causes?

Recurrent cystitis can often be caused by anatomical disorders, such as when the bladder cannot be emptied completely, as the urethra is constricted. Other causes may urinary stones or bladder tumors. Men over 50 are more frequent subject to bladder infections, because of a benign enlargement of the prostate that frequently leads to a narrowing of the urethra.

Does a bladder infection always cause fever?

In an acute infection, you have no fever, but you feel sick. Only in ascending urinary tract infection, in which the germs of the upper urinary tract reach the kidney, there will be fever.

Can a serious illness also develop from a bladder infection?

Yes, for example, a kidney infection. This is a bacterial infection, from which women suffer about 100 times more often than men do, and which is usually developed from a bladder infection. The acute pyelonephritis is first treated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic, and the pathogen is identified. Then, the treatment is adapted to the pathogen. The doctor will prescribe bed rest and stop drugs that can damage the kidneys.

How to treat a bladder infection?

In many cases, it is already helps to drink large quantities of liquid to purge the bacteria. In more severe cases, the doctor will prescribe a so-called shock therapy of antibiotics that helps with antibiotics within a day (maximum 5 days). Chronic bladder infections can be treated with antibiotics today without the germs becoming resistant. The antibiotics fight the bacteria where they cause have therefore little effect on the intestinal flora. The E. coli bacteria intestine can thus not get used to the antibiotic itself.

Can you influence the risk of disease through certain diets?

Dairy products such as yogurt and cheese, and fresh fruit juices seem to prevent bladder infections according to a study of Finnish scientists, in which 300 women were part of the research. Researchers interviewed women with acute urinary tract infections and healthy women regarding their lifestyle and their eating habits. Results: In women who eat at least three times a week dairy products such as yogurt or cheese, the risk of urinary tract infection was 80 percent lower than in women who ate less dairy products. A glass of fruit juice daily lowered the likelihood of bladder infection by more than 30 percent.

Are there any home remedies that can help with a bladder infection or prevent it?

Some patients swear on bearberry leaf tea for inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder, and renal pelvic infections. Bearberries have a diuretic and disinfectant effect. Also, cranberry or cranberry juice (U.S. cranberries, drink 1 glass a day) reduces the risk of infection. It is assumed that the high tannin concentration prevents the bacteria buildup on the cell walls.  

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