Women are more likely to experience a bladder infection (a type of urinary tract infection) than men are because we have a shorter urethra. Diagnosing your infections isn’t necessarily hard if the tale tell symptoms arise.
The problem? You can have an infection without the burning pee and frequent bathroom trips. So many bladder infection symptoms overlap common conditions, like the flu, an non-bladder UTI, and stomach bugs. This can make a self-diagnosis and self-treatment hard.
Don’t Rely on Classic Bladder Infection Symptoms for Diagnosis
My first bout brought me the not-so-pleasant classic symptoms. Years later, I began vomiting and running a fever. I’d just given birth to my first child, and the first thought was an infection from my C-section. Makes sense, right?
Turns out, I had a bladder infection with no actual urinary symptoms.
What is a Bladder Infection?
Infections like this can be either chronic or acute. If left untreated, the infection can spread. You might find that your infection has already spread by the time you see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Certain individuals might be at a higher risk for UTI type infections, whether they start in the bladder or progress there. Your age, health, sex, and sanitary habits can increase these risks too.
What Causes a Bladder Infection?
Bacteria that enters the urethra.
E.Coli is the most common bacteria introduced to the urinary tract system due to unhealthy wiping habits. While other strains can be the culprit, the presence of E. Coli shows a strong correlation between wiping hygiene and UTI related infections. This knowledge can go a long way in preventative measures.
17 Bladder Infection Symptoms
1. Frequency of Urination
With an infection, your urge to use the bathroom increases rapidly. While no actual number exists to describe frequency, if you have other symptoms on this list, you should consult your doctor.
Your body’s response to infection is fever. Many people prefer to let their bodies fight it off while others will take measures to lower their temperature. Keep in mind that adults running a low-grade fever (below 100.4 for adults) won’t cause your body harm as long as you stay hydrated. Any temperature above that and you should greatly consider treating your fever.
Remember, you can have an infection and not have a fever.
Many people associate chills with fever, but you don’t need a fever to have chills. Anxiety, stress, low blood pressure, and allergies can cause this reaction in your body.
Treating chills depends on whether a fever is present. When you’re running a fever, you don’t want to raise your body temperature. Avoid hot showers and baths, heavy blankets, or other heating devices. Instead, utilize light layers in both clothing and coverings.
Severe to mild vomiting can be a symptom. A good practice is to sip or take a spoonful of light liquids every 15 minutes. Do this even if you continue to vomit. Most of the liquid will absorb and fend off dehydration.
If your vomit appears like coffee grounds, you should seek a doctor immediately as this can be a sign of internal bleeding.
5. Cloudy Urine
Your urine can change color for a number of reasons. Normal urine can vary, but it’s generally a pale yellow that is fairly transparent. If you see a lot of foam or cloudiness, you might have an infection. Pus in your urine can cause cloudiness.
Again, if you have no other UTI-like symptoms, you might have another condition. Mild dehydration, which can be a side effect of fever or any infection, is the leading cause for cloudy urine.
6. Bloody Urine
Streaks of blood in your urine or red tinted urine can cause alarm. Certain foods can alter your urine’s color, but you can easily rule those out. The same goes for certain medications.
Foods that turn your urine pink or red:
Medications that turn your urine pink or red:
• Medications containing senna
However, if you haven’t eaten these foods or taken the listed medications, you should contact your doctor immediately. This might be a sign that your infection has moved to your kidneys.
7. Pain and/or Burning when Urinating
Pain is the hardest to describe because the threshold varies between people. Some people feel a fiery pinch. Others call it a quick stabbing pain. The pain could be in your bladder, urethra, or the small stretch of skin that connects your genitals to your anal region.
Painful urination might make you think you have a UTI-type infection; however, many conditions list this as a possible symptom.
• Sexually transmitted infections and diseases
• Kidney stones
• Soaps, bubble baths, and lotions
8. Stomach Pain
Sharp or dull pains in your lower stomach can be a bladder infection symptom. Commonly, people will confuse it with other conditions, such as the stomach flu or appendicitis. Others might describe it as indigestion. When it’s combined with other symptoms, especially painful or frequent urination, you might have a UTI.
9. Lower Back Pain
You might feel stabbing to dull pain equally on both sides of your lower back or on one. A heated water bottle or a heating pad might alleviate some discomfort. You can also try meditation and essential oils.
10. Sweet or Ammonia Smelling Urine
Like color of urine, an infection can change the way your pee smells. Sometimes, medical sites call it a foul or strong smelling odor. However, both are general terms. You can associate the change in smell to the bacteria and pus that might be present. This symptom will clear once your infection is gone, but increasing your fluids can assist in decreasing the odor.
11. Decreased Urine Output
This could be a side effect of dehydration, but generally, when you have any type of UTI, you have decreased urine output in combination with frequency of urination. In lay terms, you feel like you’re about to burst, but only a trickle releases. Your bladder relief doesn’t last. You relive the same sensation and small output minutes later.
Drinking more fluids can help, but it might not increase your output.
12. Lack of Appetite
Losing your appetite could be a side effect of fever, vomiting, or nausea. Eat when you’re hungry and don’t force it. Fluids are more important to stop dehydration.
With or without vomiting, you might have a swimming sensation in your lower stomach. Sipping ginger ale or ginger based teas might help this symptom pass. Do make sure your ginger ale actually contains ginger, and you should avoid most commercial brands that contain large amounts of unhealthy additives.
You could lose sphincter and/or bladder control if you have a bladder infection. Urinary incontinence is more common due to your extreme sensation to pee. However, many of the nerves associated with urination also reach your sphincter.
Have that rundown feeling? That’s because your body is expending energy and resources to fight off your infection. Do yourself a favor and rest. Skip the caffeine, sip some green tea, and let your body work its magic. You can also consider stimulating your vagus nerve with meditation or other techniques.
16. Mental Fog and Anxiety
Again, you might experience mild confusion if you’re running a low grade or higher fever. However, many people who have UTI-like symptoms find they can’t sleep. The urination frequency, urges, or pain keep them awake. The lack of or disturbed sleep can play a large role in your mental fog, anxiety, and irritability.
Constipation and bloating can occur with UTI-type infections. Often it’s due to a lack of fluids, so your body retains what it can to function.
When to See Your Doctor
Call your doctor at the onset of UTI or bladder infection symptoms. You can continue to self-treat at home, but you need medical care before the infection spreads to your kidneys. In most cases, you will require a round of antibiotics.
Remember, even if your symptoms subside before your appointment, you could still have an active infection. Don’t take the risk. Only your doctor can perform a urinalysis to ensure your infection is gone.
Preventing Bladder Infections
Proper bathroom hygiene can stop infections long before they start. Because it’s still the leading cause of introducing E. coli into your urinary system, it shows that better and mindful wiping practices can lead to fewer infections.
Other Methods That Prevent Bladder Infections:
• Drink a glass of 100% cranberry juice daily
• Drink water
• Don’t hold it
• Wipe front to back
• Urinate and wash after sex
• Shower instead of frequent baths
• Don’t use douches
Managing Your Bladder Infection Symptoms
Managing your symptoms can help aid your recovery by reducing the stress you place on your body. Good old-fashioned rest and hydration are key remedies you can use in combination with antibiotics.
Essential Oils for Bladder Infection
• Juniper berry
• Tea tree
You can make a blend of your favorites or use them alone in your favorite diffuser. These essential oils contain healing properties that might benefit your ability to fight your infection. If you use them topically, you should use a carrier oil.
Foods that Fight Infection:
• Garlic, whole cloves or crushed in other foods
• Probiotic foods, such as kefir, yogurts, sauerkraut, and kimchi
• Vitamin C containing foods or a Vitamin C supplement
If you have an appetite and aren’t vomiting, you could consider eating large amounts of some of these common antibacterial foods.
Like many women, I’ve suffered from my fair share of bladder infections. While I strongly believe in natural medicine and preventative measures, I also believe there is a time and place for conventional medicine. I do see my doctor for an official diagnosis and take the antibiotics while managing my symptoms naturally with the methods shared above.
If you do suspect an infection, you should seek out your doctor or naturopath for a confirmation. Many people who practice natural medicine will avoid antibiotics, due to the increasing concerns over resistance. This is a case where your infection can lead to renal failure and/or death if untreated. Please, if your doctor prescribes antibiotics, please take them and manage your symptoms naturally while your antibiotic tackles your infection.