Bladder infections (also called cystitis) refer to an inflammation of the bladder. You can also hear bladder infections used as a general way to describe any inflammation of the urinary system, including the kidneys or the urethra. More often than not, bacteria called Escherichia coli are the cause of a bladder infection.
The term Escherichia coli (shortened to E. coli) refers to a group of bacteria found in the lower intestines of warm-blooded animals. They are essential to proper digestion and show up almost immediately after birth. In fact, the first E. coli will colonize the lower intestine of an infant as soon as he ingests foods. E. coli will remain present for the rest of his life. Once this bacteria leaves the body, it can only survive for a very short time.
E. coli is present in your large intestine and can be found in your stool too. Therefore, there is almost always E. coli near your anus. At times those bacteria travel or are spread from your stool, your anus or intestines to your urethra. Your urethra is a small tube that connects to your bladder and provides an exit for your urine. This is often the opening through which E. coli is spread into your urinary system. Once inside, if your immune system does not kill the bacteria, it attaches to your urinary lining. The E. coli reproduces and can work its way up your urinary system, affecting the urethra, the bladder and the kidneys.
E. coli bladder infection symptoms often involve urine. Your urine may appear darker or smellier than usual. It could also be cloudy or tinged with blood. The E. coli can irritate the nerve endings in your bladder and give you the urge to urinate frequently, even though little or no urine will come out. You may also experience lower back and pelvic burning, cramping or pain.
E. coli bladder infections can be treated a number of ways. You can take an over-the-counter medicine to treat the symptoms as your immune system handles the infection. There are some who use cranberry juice therapy to flush out their system and help their immune system take care of the invading E. coli. Most health care providers will prescribe a course of antibiotics such as amoxicillin. Whatever the course of treatment, symptoms should not last more than a few days. If they do, it can mean that your infection has worsened.
Preventing an E. coli bladder infection means preventing the spread of E. coli from your stool and anus. Never wipe back to front because that can promote the spread of bacteria. Keep your genitals clean and dry. When you do clean your genitals, avoid soaps with dyes or fragrances because they can irritate your urethra and invite bladder infections. Do not wear tight underwear or pants. Always wear clean underwear and change it often.