When a bacterium from the area surrounding the urethra invades the bladder, a bladder infection occurs. Bladder infections are relatively common and can be treated with a course of antibiotics. Women tend to need a shorter course of antibiotics than men, who may have to deal with an infection of the prostate gland in addition to the general bladder infection. Symptoms of a bladder infection may be associated with other infections or urinary conditions, so it’s best to seek medical advice if you feel you have the condition.
Diagnosing a Bladder Infection
Your doctor will ask a series of questions about your symptoms when trying to determine the reason for your visit. If these symptoms are common in a bladder infection, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection without further testing. In many cases, however, doctors will order a urine test to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms a patient is experiencing. The urine test may be a simple dip of a stick into the urine, or it may be a urine culture.
Urine cultures involve taking a urine sample and sending the sample to a lab. The lab will attempt to grow bacteria in the sample. If bacterium grows, the patient is diagnosed with a bladder infection. A urine culture takes about two days to complete, but may take longer depending on the lab. Not all patients will require a urine culture to diagnose a bladder infection. Doctors are more apt to order the test if:
- This is the first time symptoms of a bladder infection have been reported.
- Atypical symptoms are reported along with typical bladder infection symptoms.
- The patient has a history of bladder infections that did not respond to treatment.
- The patient has recurring bladder infections.
- Symptoms do not begin to resolve within 48 hours.
- The patient is currently pregnant.
After the urine culture is complete and a diagnosis of a bladder infection is verified, the doctor will prescribe a course of treatment to cure the infection.
Treatment of a Bladder Infection
Bladder infections are treated with antibiotics. Women tend to require a shorter course of antibiotics than men. Typically, antibiotics are taken for three to seven days, depending on the patient and response to treatment. Longer treatments may be needed in some cases.
Common antibiotics prescribed for bladder infections include Cipro, Bactrim, Macrobid and Levaquin, though your doctor may prescribe other antibiotics for your infection.
About one day after starting a course of antibiotics, symptoms should begin to resolve. If symptoms continue past the third day of treatment, contact your doctor because the antibiotic may not be fighting off the infection. Even after symptoms disappear, it is important for patients to continue taking the antibiotic until the course is complete. Stopping in mid-treatment can lead to a recurrence of the infection. Patients may also be prescribed a medication to numb the urethra if urination is extremely painful.
After treatment is complete, another urine culture is not needed unless the patient is pregnant. Pregnant women should have a second urine culture about two weeks about treatment to ensure the infection is completely cured.