A bladder infection (also called a urinary tract infection or cystitis) is an inflammation of the urinary bladder, the part of your body that stores urine made by the kidneys until it can be excreted from the body. Bladder infections are relatively harmless but can lead to more serious conditions if given the chance to worsen.
Causes and Risk Factors
Bladder infections are normally caused when bacteria that are normally found on the skin or in the intestinal tract are spread into the urinary system through the urethra. The urethra is the tube that urine travels through to be excreted from the body. Bacteria can get inside the urethra through any number of ways. Catheterization can push bacteria into the urethra. Sexual intercourse can spread bacteria near the urethra. Failing to wipe front to back after bowel movements is another risk factor.
Increase in Urination
One of the most common symptoms of a bladder infection is an increase in the urge to urinate. You may find yourself urinating more often than normal. This occurs because your body is trying to flush the bacteria out of its urinary tract. In some cases, you may find yourself with the urge to urinate but little or no urine will come out. This happens often in bladder infections coupled with obstructions in the urinary tract, such as bladder or kidney stones.
The main byproduct of your urinary system function is urine. Therefore, sudden changes in urine can be a symptom of a bladder infection. When your bladder is infected, you may notice that your urine is suddenly darker than usual. It may also smell more pungent than normal. If you notice either of these symptoms, you may have a bladder infection.
Pain when Urinating
A bladder infection can also make it painful to urinate. When bacteria enter the urethra and begin to cause infection, it can irritate the urethra. This is what causes one particularly painful bladder infection symptom: a burning sensation while urinating. Urination pain is not the only pain associated with bladder infections. You may also experience cramping or burning in your pelvis and lower back, as the infection causing bacteria irritates the bladder and kidneys.
A common symptom of a bladder infection is blood in your urine. Bloody urine can mean that the kidneys are not filtering your blood properly. Normal kidneys remove waste from the blood and allow the blood, protein and nutrients to continue circulation. When you have a urinary infection like cystitis, your malfunctioning kidneys may allow blood to be filtered out and mixed with the urine. For the most part, bloody urine can mean that your bladder infection has progressed to your kidneys.