A bladder infection, also commonly referred to as cystitis, is the medical term for inflammation of the bladder. Bladder infections are most commonly caused by a bacterial infection in the form of a urinary tract infection; the most common bacteria that causes a bladder infection is Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. Certain prescription drugs and treatments such as radiation therapy and the use of products such as spermicidal jellies and feminine hygiene sprays can make bacterial infection more likely, though these can also produce a yeast infection (candidiasis) or viral infection, which may present similar symptoms but require different treatment. A bladder infection can be painful and uncomfortable, and if left untreated, can cause serious health problems, including kidney damage.
Antibiotics are the most common treatment for bladder infection, with the quinolones class of antibiotics being the most commonly prescribed, along with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) treatment. People who experience a bladder infection for the first time can in the majority of cases be effectively treated with oral antibiotics taken over the course of a few days or up to a week, depending on the severity of the infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. People who regularly experience bladder infections may require longer antibiotic treatment to make sure the infection doesn’t return after the treatment is stopped. Whatever the treatment length, make sure you take the entire dose of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor to keep a bladder infection from recurring. Long-term use of antibiotics, or using antibiotics over several courses of treatment if a bladder infection reoccurs may result in the bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotics. If you've had multiple treatments, talk to your doctor about switching to a different antibiotic or treatment.
Drink the Right Fluids
Along with antibiotic treatment, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids can help, but drinking the wrong type of liquids can actually aggravate symptoms of a bladder infection. Drink plenty of water or non-caffeinated sports drinks that contain electrolytes, and avoid coffee, tea, energy drinks, citrus juices and alcohol until your bladder infection has cleared. Cranberry juice and drinks that contain ascorbic acid may help decrease the level of bacteria in urine, according to MedLine Plus. According to nutritionist Madelyn Fernstrom, citrus juice, alcohol and milk can make antibiotics less effective by blocking how the medicine is absorbed, metabolized or broken down by your body or by mimicking the effects of the drug, which could increase your risk of side effects and should be avoided when treating a bladder infection with antibiotics.
Over-the-counter remedies that contain phenazopyridine hydrochloride can help to relieve the symptoms of a bladder infection. Staying hydrated, using a heating pad or taking sitz bath can also help. While over-the-counter remedies can help get rid of symptoms, you still need to take antibiotics to completely knock out the bacteria that caused the infection in the first place.
When to Call Your Doctor
Talk with your doctor as soon as you have a bladder infection, because antibiotic treatment is necessary. If you’re already taking antibiotics and your symptoms get worse or you develop new ones, including fever, back pain, stomach pain or vomiting, you need to let your doctor know right away. If you have recently finished a course of antibiotic treatment and the symptoms of a bladder infection return, call your doctor; she may extend your treatment or take additional measures to keep bladder infections from reoccurring.