Bladder infections are known as cystitis or inflammation of the bladder. They are common in women but very rare in men. More than half of all women get at least one bladder infection at some time in their lives. However, a man’s chance of getting cystitis increases as he ages due to in part to an increase in prostate size.
Doctors aren’t sure exactly why women have many more bladder infections than men. They suspect it may be because women have a shorter urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the bladder. This relatively short passageway — only about an inch and a half long — makes it easier for bacteria to find their way into the bladder. Also, the opening to a woman’s urethra lies close to both the vagina and the anus. That makes it easier for bacteria from those areas to get into the urinary tract.
Understanding Bladder Infections
Find out more about bladder infections:
Diagnosis and Treatment
Bladder infections are not serious if treated right away. But they tend to come back in some people. Rarely, this can lead to kidney infections, which are more serious and may result in permanent kidney damage. So it’s very important to treat the underlying causes of a bladder infection and to take preventive steps to keep them from coming back.
In elderly people, bladder infections are often difficult to diagnose. The symptoms are less specific and are frequently blamed on aging. Older people who suddenly become incontinent or who begin acting lethargic or confused should be checked by a doctor for a bladder infection.
What Causes Bladder Infections?
Most bladder infections are caused by various strains of E. coli, bacteria that normally live in the gut.
Women sometimes get bladder infections after sex. Vaginal intercourse makes it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder through the urethra. The risk for bladder infection — dubbed “honeymoon cystitis” — increases with frequent sex. Pregnant women, whose urinary tracts change in response to hormones and increased kidney function, are also prone to infections. Diaphragms and the use of spermicides alone or with condoms also increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
Bladder infections can be quite uncomfortable and potentially serious. But for most women, they clear up quickly and are relatively harmless if treated.
In men, a bladder infection may be a symptom of an underlying disorder and is generally a cause for concern. It may indicate the presence of an obstruction that is interfering with the urinary tract. Some studies have shown that uncircumcised boys are at risk of contracting a bladder infection during their first five years of life possibly because bacteria may collect under the foreskin.
In recent years, more and more bladder infections come from two sexually transmitted bacteria: chlamydia and mycoplasma.
Home and hospital use of catheters — tubes inserted into the bladder to empty it — can also lead to infection.
Some people develop symptoms of a bladder infection when no infection actually exists. Termed interstitial cystitis, this is usually benign but difficult to treat.
We have seen a rise in cases of people with bladder infections (Urinary Tract Infection – UTI) recently – a number of these cases are young children of both sexes. This subject also is topical at the moment because of the high profile coverage of Prince Phillip’s recent problems with recurrent bladder infections.
We thought it would be useful to just review some important basics about bladder infections as this is one of the most common infections that people experience – women being more prone to bladder infections than men because of their anatomy (the women’s urethra is shorter than that of a man)
The urinary tract in both men and women consists of two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder and a urethra. Typically bladder infections are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria found in the colon and around the anus. E. coli accounts for most cases. Other bacteria and parasites can also cause bladder infections. Some examples are:
The parasite Trichomonas vaginalis (STD)
Of interest for Africa the parasite Schistosoma responsible for billharzia
URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS
- Infection of the urethra is called Urethritis
- Infection of the bladder is Cystitis
- Infection in the upper urinary tract is called Pyelonephritis – more serious condition.
The body has a number of defenses against bacteria establishing a presence in the urinary tract.
The ph of urine tends to be acidic this helps against the establishment of bacteria in the UTI.
Each ureter contains a one-way valve – this prevents urine flowing back up the urinary tract. Physiological abnormalities like posterior urethral valves will cause issues with normal urinary tract function.
Vaginal flora protects against infection. The loss of vaginal flora increases with menopause due to decreased estrogen levels. .
The immune system is critical in terms of defending against harmful strains of bacteria.
COMMON CAUSES OF UTI’s
Incorrect or poor hygiene practice – women should wipe from the front to back. Many parents have not taught their daughters this.
Incorrect or poor hygiene practice in children following a bowel movement – including not being able to wipe correctly and poor washing of hands.
Prolonged or vigorous sexual activity can cause bruising and irritation allowing for increased susceptibility for infection – urination after sex can help flush bacteria away.
Insufficient daily water intake
Wearing synthetic underwear for example nylon underwear.
Wearing G-strings or thongs also can lead to infection.
Holding in urine – not urinating often enough.
SOME RISK FACTORS
- Suppressed immune systems. We are seeing a lot of cases at the moment featuring sluggish or blocked lymphatic systems and “under active” white blood cells.
- Poor Nutrition – refined carbohydrates and high acidic diet.
- Surgery involving the urinary tract
- Kidney Stones
- Mechanical issues stopping normal urinary flow – such as prostrate issues or narrowed urethra.
- Bathing as opposed to showering
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
As detailed above we need to have correct hygiene practices and we need to help our children develop correct hygiene practices particularly after bowel movements.
It is very important that we maintain sufficient water intake during the day. Water is the most effective hydration that we can give ourselves.
It is very important to monitor your immune system. There are telltale signs that the immune system is not functioning correctly or under pressure. We will be posting an article on immune system warning signs shortly. Microscopic Live Blood Analysis will show up problems with the immune system.
Physical activity plays an important part in maintaining system wellness.
For cells to function correctly blood ph needs to be maintained within a narrow range – around 7.45. System acidity is a result of cellular metabolism. The body has a number of mechanisms for dealing with acid formation.
- Blood buffers
- Respiratory System – disposal of carbonic acid
- The Renal System
The kidneys are responsible for carrying the biggest load in terms of maintaining the acid/alkaline balance of the blood. As we age, we are less able to concentrate urine. Loss of bladder tone and shrinkage is another consequence of aging. Our western diet tends to contain foods that are highly acid forming. Acid forming foods in themselves are not bad – the problem is that we consume too many acid forming foods and not enough alkaline forming foods. This, in combination with the high intake of refined carbohydrates puts strain on our already hard working kidneys – placing the urinary system under pressure. We need to strive for balance in our nutrition. We have developed a nutritional system to help people understand the concept of acid forming and alkaline forming foods. Let us know if you want to know more.
A NOTE ON CRANBERRIES AND CRANBERRY JUICE.
It has long been held that cranberries help with UTI’s. It was thought that cranberries raised the acidity of the urine this destroying harmful bacteria. This is actually not the case. Cranberries contain specific compounds called A-type Proanthocyanidins – these compounds prevent harmful bacterial strains from attaching to body tissues – demonstrating bacterial anti-adhesion functionality. Research is still being done on how A-type Proanthocyanidins actually help with UTI’s. Various types of Proanthocyanidins are found in other foods but, as of this article, we have not seen any specific link in eliminating UTI’s other than the general benefit from healthy eating.
Unfortunately in South Africa it’s very difficult to find pure 100% cranberry juice – the fruit is not indigenous to the country. The cranberry juice that is commercially available is a fruit juice mix and will not provide the benefits that you require. Some health shops may have dried cranberries and cranberry tablets – there is evidence that the tablets have proven to be effective. If you have a specialty vegetable shop or food shop in your area – ask them if they ever get cranberries in.