Understanding Bladder Infections -- Diagnosis and Treatment
How Do I Know If I Have a Bladder Infection?
A urine test usually shows whether you have a bladder infection. If you are having persistent or frequent infections, or if an anatomical defect is suspected as the cause of the problem, your doctor may also want you to undergo testing, including a cystoscopy. This involves putting a thin tube through the urethra that lets the doctor look inside the bladder.
To make sure your kidneys are OK, your doctor may order a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis or an ultrasound scan of the entire urinary tract.
When children who are not toilet trained have bladder infections, a thorough medical exam is needed to find the underlying cause. Additional testing may not be required for older children who have had only one bladder infection.
What Are the Treatments for a Bladder Infection?
There is a wide variety of antibiotics to treat bladder infections. Some uncomplicated infections can be treated with just three days of medication. Some drugs and some organisms require a week or more of treatment. In many cases, you may start to feel better within the first day of starting treatment. When urinary infections involve the kidney, this is a more serious infection and treatment may take longer and the choice of antibiotic is more complicated. Elderly people and those with a chronic underlying health condition, such as diabetes or HIV infection, are often prescribed a longer course of antibiotics -- sometimes up to 14 days.
While being treated for a bladder infection, drink plenty of fluids to help flush any bacteria out of the bladder. A common treatment is phenazopyridine (Pyridium), which is available over the counter. This is an anesthetic for the urinary tract, but doesn’t actually treat the infection. However, it can be helpful while waiting for antibiotics to start working. Check with your doctor first to see if it is right for you.
After you have finished treatment, you may be asked to come in for a follow-up urine test to make sure your bladder is free of all signs of infection. People with frequently recurring bladder infections may be prescribed low daily doses of antibiotics for an additional six months or longer. Women whose infections are related to sexual activity may be given a small dose of antibiotics to take each time they have intercourse. Remember that frequently recurring bladder symptoms can sometimes be caused by other conditions, such as interstitial cystitis, and are not always the result of an infection.
Some doctors prescribe the hormone estrogen as a topical cream to prevent recurrences in postmenopausal women. For cases where the infection is the result of a blockage or obstruction, such as a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate, surgery may be needed.