The urinary bladder is an essential part of the genitourinary system. Here, the body stores the toxin-containing urine the kidneys produced, prior to elimination. Because the bladder connects to the outside of the body via the urethra, it is quite prone to infection should bacteria migrate up the urinary tract. Bladder infections or cystitis are a type of urinary tract infection (UTI), one of the most common types of bacterial infections. Being aware of the symptoms of a bladder infection and catching the illness early ensures prompt treatment and can help prevent serious complications, such as the migration of bacteria to the kidneys.
Discomfort during urination is usually the most noticeable sign of a urinary tract or bladder infection. Some people also feel burning sensations and sharp pains when they urinate. If this symptom lasts beyond one or two trips to the bathroom, it may indicate a problem and the need for medical attention.
People with bladder infections often feel the urge to urinate more often than usual. Despite the desperate need, however, only a small amount of urine may be released each time. These urges may continue into the night, waking individuals from sleep and disrupting rest.
A person with a bladder infection may also report pain in the lower abdomen, often caused by bladder spasms. Bacterial growth and inflammation cause irritation of the lining of the bladder, and these are the primary causes of the spasmodic pain. Abdominal pain can indicate a variety of medical concerns, but coupled with painful and frequent urination, it is suggestive of a bladder infection. However, medical evaluation and urine testing are needed to confirm the diagnosis.
An infection in the urinary bladder can cause urine to develop abnormal characteristics such as a foul smell. The urine may also be cloudy, an indication that infection and inflammation of the bladder walls, combined with bacteria and other waste, has caused the production of pus. This characteristic adds a whitish tint and turbidity to the urine.
In addition to a foul smell and cloudiness, urine from an infected bladder may also contain traces of blood, which may give the urine a widespread pink or red tint. The inflammation in the bladder causes damage to the organ’s lining and broken blood vessels. Blood from the vessels may leak out during urination. It takes only small amounts of blood to turn the urine pink or red.
If a bladder infection goes unnoticed or ignored for a long time, it may ascend further up the urinary tract and infect the kidneys. This subsequent infection can cause similar symptoms to a bladder infection, as well as a fever, back pain, nausea, and chills. Fever is a natural reaction to foreign microbes invading the kidneys. An advanced UTI requires medical treatment before it progresses further.
A bladder infection produces some unique symptoms in children and older adults with less effective immune systems. Young children may begin wetting the bed, and may or may not present the other symptoms of the infection. Older adults may experience mental confusion and extreme lethargy, which can indicate a severe infection that requires more aggressive therapy. These symptoms are uncommon in younger people with uncomplicated bladder infections.
Bladder infections can leave individuals feeling weak and generally fatigued, though this is most common when the infection moves from the bladder to the kidneys. Basic tasks may become difficult to carry out without rest and extra effort. When this symptom presents alongside other symptoms of a UTI, an individual should see a doctor promptly.