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Bladder Infection: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

If you’re experiencing acute pain when urinating, frequently passing cloudy, bloody and unpleasant-smelling urine and have cramping in your abdomen or lower back, you may have cystitis, also known as a bladder infection. Learn about its symptoms, causes and possible treatments.

Published by Jane Granger
Bladder Infection: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Is a Bladder Infection the same as a UTI?

The Urinary Tract is made up of the urethra (the tube that transports urine from the bladder to exit the body), the bladder and kidneys. Although technically an infection of any of these is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), the term is most commonly used to describe an infection of the urethra, which if left untreated, can lead to a bladder infection (cystitis) and a Kidney Infection (medically referred to as pyelonephritis).

What causes a bladder infection?


Most infections of the urinary tract are caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), found in the digestive system and in faeces. Females are particularly vulnerable to bladder infection given the physical proximity of the urethra opening and the anus. Compared to males, females also have relatively short urethras, allowing bacteria to quickly travel to the bladder.

Bacteria is commonly present in the urethra in small numbers and is flushed out when urinating, so doesn’t usually cause an issue. It’s only becomes an infection when it ‘takes hold’ and reaches a critical mass that the body struggles to combat.

How does a bladder infection start?

As mentioned, a bladder infection, or cystitis, is caused by a bacterial infection that’s travelled up from the urethra. The symptoms of both are similar, so if you think you may have a UTI, make an appointment with your doctor before it has the chance to infect your bladder or kidneys.


What are the symptoms of a bladder infection?

Symptoms of infection of the urethra, bladder and kidneys (the entire urinary tract) tend to escalate as the infection travels up the tract.

An infection of the urethra (commonly called a UTI) includes:

  • A searing, burning sensation when passing urine, sometimes described as passing razor blades
  • An urgent and frequent need to urinate, but then passing very little
  • In some cases, pain around the pubic bone or lower back can be experienced

If the infection has travelled to the bladder, you may be experiencing the above, as well as noticing that your urine appears cloudy, contains traces of blood and smells very bad.

When the infection reaches the kidneys, symptoms like nausea, fever and vomiting can also be present.

It’s worth noting that the severity can vary by individual and that in young children and the elderly, the symptoms of a bladder infection outlined above may not be present until the infection reaches their kidneys and they develop a fever. If you’re caring for someone who suddenly becomes unwell, it may be an infection of the urinary tract (urethra, bladder or kidneys) and you should make a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible.

How is bladder infection treated?

Treatment of a bladder infection is a course of oral antibiotics and if your symptoms are very painful, ask your doctor about medication options to provide relief while the antibiotics take effect.

Drinking plenty of water to help flush out the infection is advised, and you should experience improvement within two to three days.

Your doctor will inquire about your symptoms and request a urine sample that will be tested for bacteria type, as well as white and red blood cell counts that indicate infection. 

Additional articles on Urinary Tract Infections

  • UTI: Facts and Tips: Covering who is most prone to UTIs and tips to avoid infection
  • Will a UTI go away on its own? This article includes the latest on alternative treatments
  • Kidney Infection


How can you manage incontinence from a bladder infection?

The frequent and sudden urgency to pass urine can catch you out, leading to involuntary leakage of urine.

If you’re only losing a few drops or a small gush, a TENA liner may be all that’s required. These are the smallest of the TENA range, and like all of our products, are designed to handle the thinner, faster flow of a weak bladder, rapidly absorbing and locking away fluid, keeping you dry, odour free and feeling confident while the antibiotics take effect.

If you require more protection, why not take advantage of our Product Finder Tool, and Free Samples find the product that best suits you.


Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.