Bladder Infection (Urinary Tract Infection—UTI)
Updated: Feb 12
Bladder infections are the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), but any part of your urinary tract can become infected—the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. Your age, habits, or health conditions can make a UTI more likely.A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection from microbes. These are organisms that are too small to be seen without a microscope. Most UTIs are caused by bacteria, but some are caused by fungi and in rare cases by viruses. UTIs are among the most common infections in humans.
Most UTIs only involve the urethra and bladder, in the lower tract. However, UTIs can involve the ureters and kidneys, in the upper tract. Although upper tract UTIs are more rare than lower tract UTIs, they’re also usually more severe.
Symptoms of a UTI depend on what part of the urinary tract is infected.
Lower tract UTIs affect the urethra and bladder. Symptoms of a lower tract UTI include:
burning with urination
increased frequency of urination without passing much urine
increased urgency of urination
urine that looks like cola or tea
urine that has a strong odor
pelvic pain in women
rectal pain in men
Upper tract UTIs affect the kidneys. These can be potentially life threatening if bacteria move from the infected kidney into the blood. This condition, called urosepsis, can cause dangerously low blood pressure, shock, and death.
Symptoms of an upper tract UTI include:
pain and tenderness in the upper back and sides
UTI symptoms in men
Symptoms of an upper tract urinary infection in men are similar to those in women. Symptoms of a lower tract urinary infection in men sometimes includes rectal pain in addition to the common symptoms shared by both men and women.
UTI symptoms in women
Women with a lower tract urinary infection may experience pelvic pain. This is in addition to the other common symptoms. Symptoms of upper tract infections among both men and women are similar.
Causes of bladder infection
Most of the time a bladder infection is caused by bacteria that are normally found in your bowel. The bladder has several systems to prevent infection. For example, urination most often flushes out bacteria before it reaches the bladder. Sometimes your body can’t fight the bacteria and the bacteria cause an infection. People of any age or sex can develop bladder infections, but women are at higher risk than men
Anything that reduces your bladder emptying or irritates the urinary tract can lead to UTIs. There are also many factors that can put you at an increased risk of a getting a UTI. These factors include:
You are more likely to develop a bladder infection if you
are sexually active
are a woman who has gone through menopause
have trouble emptying your bladder completely, like people with a spinal cord injury or nerve damage around the bladder
have a problem in your urinary tract that blocks, or obstructs, the normal flow of urine, such as a kidney stone
have an abnormality of the urinary tract, such as vesicoureteral reflux (VUR)
recently used a urinary catheter
had a UTI in the past
reduced mobility after surgery or prolonged bed rest
abnormally developed urinary structures from birth
a weakened immune system
Additional UTI risk factors for men
Most UTI risk factors for men are the same as those for women. However, having an enlarged prostate is one risk factor for a UTI that’s unique to men.
Additional UTI risk factors for women
There are additional risk factors for women. Some factors that were once believed to be a cause of UTIs in women have since been shown to not be as important, such as poor bathroom hygiene. Recent studies have failed to show that wiping from back to front after going to the bathroom leads to UTIs in women, like previously believed.
Shorter urethra- The urethra in women is very close to both the vagina and the anus. Bacteria that may naturally occur around both the vagina and anus can lead to infection in the urethra and the rest of the urinary tract. A woman’s urethra is also shorter than a man’s, and the bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to enter the bladder.
Pressure on the female urinary tract during sexual intercourse can move bacteria from around the anus into the bladder. Most women have bacteria in their urine after intercourse. However, the body can usually get rid of these bacteria within 24 hours. Bowel bacteria may have properties that allow them to stick to the bladder.
Spermicides may increase UTI risk. They can cause skin irritation in some women. This increases the risk of bacteria entering the bladder.
Condom use during sex
Non-lubricated latex condoms may increase friction and irritate the skin of women during sexual intercourse. This may increase the risk of a UTI. To help prevent friction and skin irritation from condoms, be sure to use enough water-based lubricant, and use it often during intercourse.
Diaphragms may put pressure on a woman’s urethra. This can decrease bladder emptying.
Decrease in estrogen levels
After menopause, a decrease in your estrogen level changes the normal bacteria in your vagina. This can increase the risk of a UTI.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose urinary tract infections include:
Analyzing a urine sample
Creating images of your urinary tract-, you may have an ultrasound, a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Your doctor may also use a contrast dye to highlight structures in your urinary tract.
Using a scope to see inside your bladder.
Treatment of UTIs depends on the cause. Your doctor will be able to determine which organism is causing the infection from the test results used to confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, the cause is bacteria. UTIs caused by bacteria are treated with anti bacterial medicines In some cases, viruses or fungi are the causes. Viral UTIs are treated with medications called antivirals. Fungal UTIs are treated with medications called antifungals.
Everyone can take the following steps to help prevent UTIs:
Drink six to eight glasses of water daily.
Don’t hold urine for long periods of time.
Talk to your doctor about managing any urinary incontinence or difficulties fully emptying your bladder.
Certain steps may help prevent UTIs in women.
For perimenopausal or postmenopausal women, using topical or vaginal estrogen prescribed by your doctor could make a difference in preventing UTIs. If your doctor believes that intercourse is a factor of your recurrent UTIs, they may recommend taking preventive medication after intercourse, or long-term.
Taking daily cranberry supplements or using vaginal probiotics, like lactobacillus, may also help in the prevention of UTIs. Some studies suggest that using probiotic vaginal suppositories can decrease the occurrence and recurrence of UTIs, by changing the bacteria found in the vagina.
UTIs during pregnancy
Women who are pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI should see their doctor right away. UTIs during pregnancy can cause high blood pressure and premature delivery. UTIs during pregnancy are also more likely to spread to the kidneys.
It’s important to treat a UTI — the earlier, the better. Untreated UTIs become more and more severe the further they spread. A UTI is usually easiest to treat in the lower urinary tract. An infection that spreads to the upper urinary tract is much more difficult to treat and is more likely to spread into your blood, causing sepsis. This is a life-threatening event.
Home remedies for a UTI
There are no home remedies that can cure a UTI, but there are some things that you can do that can help your medication work better.
These home remedies for UTIs, like drinking more water, may help your body clear the infection faster.
While cranberries are a popular remedy, the research on their effect on UTIs is mixed. More conclusive studies are needed.
Cranberry juice or cranberries don’t treat a UTI once it’s started. However, a chemical in cranberries may help prevent certain types of bacteria that can cause a bacterial UTI from attaching to the lining of your bladder. This may be helpful in preventing future UTI.
MYTHS & FACTS FOR UTI
Myth: UTIs are transmitted between sexual partners.
Truth: Sexual partners do not transmit UTIs. In men, infections are generally caused by an obstruction or abnormality in the urinary tract like a kidney stone or enlarged prostate, having recently had a catheter to drain urine, or having a neurological condition like Parkinson’s that might make draining the bladder difficult. Studies have also shown that uncircumcised men are more likely to get a UTI than circumcised men.
Myth: Poor hygiene causes UTIs.
Truth: E.coli, Enterococcus, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, or Klebsiella bacteria are the most common causes of UTIs and bladder infections. Though general hygiene is important, we now know that urine is not sterile and an imbalance in the bladder bacteria or urobiome, the colony of bacteria living in the bladder, is the more likely
Myth: UTIs are the only condition that causes pain with urination, frequency and urgency to urinate.
Truth: Other conditions such as interstitial cystitis, sexually transmitted diseases and dietary change mimic the symptoms of a UTI. You need a urine culture to ensure a proper diagnosis when you suspect you have a UTI.
Myth: I know when I have a UTI and I do not need to be evaluated by my doctor.
Truth: If you think you have a UTI, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider. Only a prescription medicine can cure a UTI, and without treatment, the infection could get worse – progressing to a kidney or blood infection with more serious consequences like hospitalization, if left untreated.
Myth: Cranberry juice can prevent a UTI.
Truth: There are varying results in research studies regarding the effectiveness of cranberry juice in preventing UTIs. Most studies do not support drinking it for UTI prevention because it does not contain a high enough concentration of proanthocyanidins (PAC), the substance found in cranberry juice linked to urinary tract health. Juice is also high in sugar. You can use cranberry tablets/ sachets, which have higher amounts of PAC, along with good hygiene and consultation with your physician.
Myth: Wiping front to back, avoiding tight clothes, and urinating after intercourse will prevent UTIs.
Truth: There is no evidence that any of these general hygiene methods help prevent UTIs. However experts still recommend them as they cost nothing and are easy to do. If it works for you, there is no reason to stop these practices.
Myth: To prevent a UTI, clean your vagina with soap and water.
FALSE: Using products to clean the vaginal area does not help prevent a UTI, and could throw off the pH and bacterial balances. You do not need to wash, douche or use cleansing wipes in the vagina. Do gently wash the exterior portion of your genitals with soap and water.
Myth: If your urine is cloudy or has a strange odor, then you have a UTI.
FALSE: Studies have shown that the clarity and smell of urine is not an accurate way to diagnose a UTI because it can depend on how much water you drink and what you have eaten.
Myth: Only women can get UTIs.
FALSE: Although women are at a much greater risk of getting a UTI, men and non-binary or trans individuals can get UTIs as well. Additionally, children, pregnant women and the elderly can experience UTIs.
Treatment with homeopathy is in two parts: first to treat the infection, and secondly to improve the general health so as to avert further infections. This deeper treatment is best left to a professional homeopath.
It produces the most agonizing pain before, during and after urination. Each drop of urine feels like scalding acid and it may be easier to pass urine in a hot bath. The surrounding skin may become excoriated, and there may be blood in the urine. The patient is beside herself with pain and avoids drinking so that she won’t have to pass urine.
The person prescribed Apis Mellifica will complain of burning or stinging pain while passing urine, especially where the last drops of urine cause intense burning. Bladder tenesmus is marked and where blood appears in the urine. Scanty urine or urine passed in drops from UTI is also best treated with Apis Mellifica.
Pulsatilla is often prescribed for women, who are soft and yielding in character. They are prone to cry whilst relating their story, and evoke sympathy in the listener. The pain is worse when urination is delayed, and after urination. The symptoms are changeable, and the urine tends to spurt out.
“Honeymoon cystitis” frequently responds very well to Staphysagria, as do urinary tract infections that come on after pelvic examination, operation or labour. Cystitis occurs after sex and the pain is felt during and after urination.
This remedy is frequently used for infections when the pain comes on after urination. There may be some blood in the urine and severe symptoms of cystitis. It is easier to pass urine whilst standing up and there is a tendency to urinary retention.
Sepia is immensely useful for recurrent urinary tract infections, especially when there is also a history of lots of antibiotic use and thrush. The woman often loses her libido, because sex is painful and she fears cystitis may result. She is often worn out by the recurrent infections, Genital herpes may be present.
Nitric Acid is one of the most effective medicines for urinary tract infection where the major symptoms include burning while passing urine that is highly offensive. Urine is scanty. Another attending feature is cloudy urine, dark urine and blood in urine.
Sabal Serrulata and Chimaphila Umbellata – For UTI in Men with Prostate Enlargement
Sabal Serrulata and Chimaphila Umbellata are highly effective medicines for urinary tract infection in men with prostate enlargement.
The guiding features for use of Sabal Serrulata are – smarting and burning in urethra, pain while initiating urination and a feeling of fullness in the bladder. Sabal Serrulata is also indicated for cystitis from prostate enlargement.
Chimaphila Umbellata is the recommended course of treatment for intense burning, scalding on urinating. Urine is scanty. Urine may also be turbid, with an offensive odor.
Uva Ursi – For UTI with Pus and Blood in Urine
Uva Ursi is a valuable medicine for urinary tract infection where pus and blood appear in the urine. The other accompanying symptoms are frequent urge to urinate, burning and tearing pain in the bladder. Tenesmus of the urinary bladder is also most marked. Nausea and vomiting may also attend.
- Dr Sanjeev Singh Chawla