Sometimes the first symptom of a bladder infection -- which is more common than you might think -- is a need to urinate more often than usual. Add to that any discomfort, pressure or pain in your pelvis or lower abdomen and these could be the signs of a bacterial infection in your urinary tract.
Believe it or not, at least one woman out of five will contract a urinary tract infection, or UTI, sometime in her life. The UTI can cause inflammation of the kidney (relatively rare) or the urethra (more common), or it could move along the urethra to the bladder, causing cystitis, which is the most common UTI.
A fact sheet from Womenshealth.gov spells out the main symptoms of a bladder infection or UTI:
-- Pain or stinging when you pass urine.
-- A frequent urge to pass urine, even if not much comes out.
-- Pressure in the lower abdomen.
-- Urine that smells foul or looks milky, cloudy or reddish in color (which could indicate blood).
-- Feeling tired or shaky or having a fever.
Interestingly, women in menopause can find themselves with recurrent bladder infections, noted the University of Maryland Medical Center. As estrogen is waning, the vaginal wall changes and the urethral wall thins, making the area more vulnerable to germs. Also, women as they age sometimes develop urinary incontinence, which in itself increases the risk for a UTI.
Whatever age you are, you might sense that something is wrong when it comes to your bathroom habits, but how well would you be able to detect a possible bladder infection with your children?
According to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, UTIs annually affect about 3 percent of children in the United States and account for more than 1 million visits to pediatricians’ offices. The infections are much less common in boys than girls, just as the infections hit women much more often than men.
Females have shorter urethras, which makes it easier for bacteria to travel from the anus to the tube that carries urine out of the body. Even so, boys with any kind of blockage in the urinary tract can get an infection.
When you suspect a bladder infection, the key is to ask your kids not only how they are feeling, but also the specifics on trips to the bathroom (day and night), possible bedwetting, the onset of discomfort or pain, whether they are more tired than usual, and whether they are feverish. With young kids you might even need to follow them into the bathroom to determine whether the urine has a foul smell or reveals any blood.
If a loved one of any age has one of the following medical conditions, be aware that they might be at greater risk for a UTI, according to the University of Maryland:
Diabetes, kidney problems, including kidney stones, neurogenic bladder, in which a brain or nerve disorder leads to problems emptying the bladder, sickle-cell anemia, immune system problems, such as those experienced by HIV/AIDS and cancer patients, and urinary tract abnormalities, such as a prolapsed bladder.
The detective work involving your family or yourself is worth it, though, when it comes to the symptoms of bladder infections, because the condition is relatively easy to diagnose with a urinalysis at the doctor’s office and relatively easy to treat with a regimen of antibiotics.
“Urinary tract infection fact sheet.” Publications, womenshealth.gov. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.
“Urinary tract infection - Risk Factors.” University of Maryland Medical Center. umm.edu. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_risk_factors_urinary_tract_infections__000036_4.htm
“Urinary Tract Infection.” Brigham and Women’s Hospital Health Library. Brighamandwomens.org. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. http://healthlibrary.brighamandwomens.org/Search/85,P01089
Reviewed September 21, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith