How Do I Know If I Have a Bladder Infection?

Medically Reviewed by Kumar Shital, DO on September 15, 2023
3 min read

By your 10th trip to the bathroom in 2 hours, you might wonder if you have a bladder infection. And you may be right, especially if it hurts, burns, or stings when you pee.

Bladder infections are the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI). They’re caused by bacteria and lead to problems like pain in your lower belly and having to pee way more often than usual.

Your doctor can do some simple tests to find out if you have one, and they’re usually easy to treat. If you get bladder infections often, your doctor may want to do more advanced tests to find the cause.

Your doctor will first do a physical exam and talk to you about your symptoms. That may be enough to find out whether you have one.

If not, you’ll get a urine analysis. This is a test that checks for bacteria, blood, or pus in a sample of your pee. Your doctor may also run a urine culture to find out which bacteria are causing your infection.

Getting a bladder infection once in a while may be a bother, but it’s not usually a serious health concern. Sometimes, though, it’s important to know the cause of the infection, because medicine alone may not be enough to treat it.

You may get more advanced tests if you belong to one of these groups:

  • Children
  • Men (Because they tend not to get bladder infections, it could be a sign of something else.)
  • People who have kidney damage
  • Women who get three or more bladder infections in a year or have blood in their urine

To find the cause of a bladder infection, your doctor can use:

  • Cystoscopy. Your doctor inserts a cystoscope – a thin tube with a camera -- into your urethra to look for problems or to get a tissue sample for more testing (biopsy).
  • Imaging. An ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI can show tumors, kidney stones, and other issues.
  • Intravenous urogram (IVU). This is an X-ray that uses contrast dye to take images of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder.
  • Voiding cystourethrography. Your doctor puts a dye into your bladder to see if any urine flows backward from the bladder toward the kidneys.
  • Retrograde urethrography. This test uses contrast dye to find problems in the urethra.

A mild bladder infection may go away on its own within a few days. If it doesn’t, it’s usually treated with antibiotics. You usually start to feel better in a day or so, but be sure to take all the medicine as directed.

Women with a simple bladder infection usually take antibiotics for 3 to 7 days, though some doctors may give you an antibiotic you can take just once. For stronger infections, or if you get them often, you may take antibiotics for 7 to 10 days. And, if you have another health condition, such as diabetes or a kidney problem, you may get a stronger antibiotic to take over a longer time.

For women past menopause, your doctor may also suggest a vaginal cream with estrogen, if it’s safe for you.

For men who have a bladder infection caused by a prostate infection, you may be on antibiotics for several weeks.

Your doctor may also give you medicine to help with symptoms such as pain or the constant urge to pee.

Here are some things you can do at home to get relief:

  • Avoid having sex.
  • Drink lots of water, but avoid alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods. They can all make your symptoms worse.
  • Take a pain reliever.
  • Try a 15- to 20-minute soak in a warm bath.
  • Use a heating pad on your lower belly.