Urine infections are a common problem. They are commonly called cystitis by the general public but this is not really the correct name for them. Cystitis means inflammation of the bladder, infection being only one of many potential causes. Infections are most common in women but men can occasionally develop them.
GP's generally refer women who have multiple infections or men with their first infection. Hospital doctors will then attempt to exclude any underlying problem such as stones or abnormalities of the bladder or kidneys.
Most bladder infections in women will respond to an increased fluid intake. If this doesn't work a few days antibiotics are often sufficient. Rarely the infection can ascend from the bladder to the kidney. This kidney infection in known as pyelonephritis. It can be very severe with a high temperature and confusion. This often needs treatment with intravenous antibiotics.
How are infections caused?
Most infections have no discernable cause. They can be however precipitated by intercourse or become more problematic after the menopause.
Repeated urinary tract infections
Infections may be repeated for two main reasons, either the original bacteria have again invaded the bladder from a hiding place such as the vagina or a kidney stone or alternatively that the infection was insufficiently treated.
How can recurrent urinary tract infections be avoided (in women)?
The first step is to ensure that each time that you have an infection a urine sample is sent to the lab to be checked for germs. If it is the same germ on each occasion then the simplest thing to do is to treat the infections for 7 days rather than the more common 3 days. If infections are problematic then you will probably be referred to the hospital for some simple tests
If there is no underlying abnormality the there are a number of simple ways of trying to reduce the recurrence rate such as oestrogen containing creams in post menopausal women or taking a regular low dose antibiotic. The doctor at the hospital will recommend a course of action to you.
Is there hope?
Recurrent urinary tract infections can be miserable but there is a lot that can be done to improve things. Don't give up hope!
What can I do to try to reduce the number of infections that I have (women)?