How Do I Know If I Have a Bladder Infection?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on April 05, 2024
6 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.

Besides the urge to pee more than usual and pain, burning, or stinging when you go, here are some other symptoms of a bladder infection:

  • Feeling the need to pee even though your bladder is empty
  • Blood in your pee
  • Pressure or cramping in your groin or lower abdomen
  • Cloudy pee
  • Pee that has a strong odor

Bladder infection in kids

Symptoms of a bladder infection in children look much the same as those in adults, including the need to pee a lot and pain when peeing. Some kids may also wet themselves even if you've toilet-trained them. In infants and toddlers, a common symptom of a UTI is fever, but most of the time, their fever won't be connected to the illness.


Your urinary system usually protects you from bacteria, but sometimes it fails, and that's when a bladder infection can happen. Bacteria get into your urinary tract through the urethra and spread to your bladder. E. coli bacteria, found in your GI tract, typically cause a bladder infection. You can also get one by having sex, but that's not always the case.

Is a bladder infection contagious?

A bladder infection is not a contagious illness.

Can dehydration cause bladder infection?

When you lose more fluid than your body takes in, this can cause dehydration. If it happens over and over or for a long period, there's a chance you can get a urinary tract infection.

Why do I keep getting bladder infections?

Experts think your genes may play a role in bladder infections that keep coming back, especially in women with a sister or mother who also has frequent bladder infections. Sex can also raise your chances of a bladder infection, which boosts the number of harmful bacteria in your bladder. Also, if you use spermicides during sex, they can kill lactobacilli, which are helpful bacteria that live in the vagina and protect you from bacteria that cause bladder infections. Lactobacilli also decline after menopause. During this period of your life, your bladder also doesn't contract as strongly, which makes it harder to fully empty it.


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 test 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.

Bladder infection vs. UTI

A bladder infection is a type of UTI or an infection that happens when bacteria enter the urethra and, eventually, the urinary tract. Other types of UTIs can affect your kidneys, ureters, and urethra.

Bladder infection vs. kidney infection

Another type of UTI is a kidney infection. It doesn't happen as often as bladder infections but can cause more serious symptoms. Symptoms of a kidney infection include fever, chills, lower back pain, pain in the side of your back, and nausea or vomiting.

Bladder infection tests

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 X-ray 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.

Bladder infection medication

Your doctor will likely prescribe one of these medicines for a simple UTI:

  • Ceftriaxone
  • Cephalexin
  • Fosfomycin (Monurol)
  • Nitrofurantoin (Furadantin, Macrobid, Macrodantin)
  • Trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Bactrim DS)

If you have a complicated UTI, you could take ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin, or other drug in a group of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones.

Changes to your body when you're pregnant raise your chances of getting a UTI. As the baby gets bigger in the womb, there's more pressure on your bladder, which can limit your urine flow and lead to an infection. The tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder (called ureters) also expand during pregnancy, allowing bacteria to more easily enter your kidneys.

The symptoms and causes of a bladder infection are the same whether you're pregnant or not. But a UTI can trigger other health problems related to your pregnancy, such as high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), early birth, and an underweight baby. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.

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.

If you're constantly running to the bathroom and have pain or burning while peeing, you might have a bladder infection. It's the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI). Your doctor can diagnose it through a physical exam and urine analysis, checking for bacteria, blood, or pus. Treatment typically involves antibiotics, and if you get infections over and over again, you may need advanced tests like cystoscopy or imaging. Self-care measures include drinking plenty of water, avoiding irritants like alcohol and caffeine, and using pain relievers or warm baths to ease your symptoms.

What can be mistaken for a bladder infection?

Other conditions can cause symptoms similar to a bladder infection, including overactive bladder, kidney stones, some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and bladder cancer.

What is the fastest way to get rid of a bladder infection naturally?

Staying hydrated is a key home remedy for quickly recovering from a bladder infection. You can drink plenty of water or get more fluids from water-rich foods like watermelon, oranges, soups, and broths. Be sure to drink water throughout the day and empty your bladder when needed to get rid of harmful bacteria from your system.