A bladder infections---also called a urinary-tract infections or cystitis---is a common ailment involving your urinary system. In fact, bladder infections are so common that most people will contract at least one in their lifetime, usually during infancy, old age or during pregnancy. These infections are generally harmless even though the symptoms can be painful and inconvenient. How long your bladder infection lasts depends on several factors, including the severity of the condition and the type of treatment.
Bladder infections are caused when normal bacteria found on the skin, in the intestinal tract or in the stool are spread into the urethra, the tube through which urine flows from the bladder when you urinate. Once there, the bacteria attaches itself to the lining of the urethra and the bladder and begins multiplying. Bacteria can be spread into the urethra in a number of ways, including through sexual intercourse and bathroom hygiene.
The earlier you treat your bladder infection, the faster it can be cured. Regular medical exams and close observation of the usual symptoms can be your best weapon in curing a bladder infection. The first sign of a bladder infection is often dysuria, or painful urination. The bacteria in the urethra and bladder irritate their linings, causing pain and burning when your urinate. You may also see cloudy urine or particularly foul-smelling urine when you have a bladder infection. You may also experience painful cramps in your pelvis or lower back. However, all of these symptoms can also be attributed to other conditions, including sexually transmitted infections. See your health-care professional for a urine analysis and professional diagnosis.
Your body has the resources to cure many small infections itself, including minor bladder infections. If you experience chronic bladder infections, you may find that increasing your water intake can flush the bacteria out of the urinary system within a few days. However, most infections require antibiotic treatment.
Untreated bladder infections can develop into conditions that are more serious. In general, the farther up your urinary tract the infection travels, the more serious your condition. If the infection reaches your kidneys, you may be hospitalized and given intravenous antibiotics.
Types of Antibiotics
Your health-care professional will generally prescribe prescription antibiotics to treat your bladder infection. Depending on the type of antibiotic, the infection can be treated in as little as one day or may last up to two weeks. Men are normally put on a longer course of antibiotic treatment because they do not respond as well to short-term treatments. You may find your symptoms disappearing after a few days of antibiotics, but that does not mean that the infection is gone. Continue to take the antibiotics for as long as prescribed to avoid having the infection recur.
You should begin to feel relief from your symptoms fairly quickly when given antibiotics. However, infections that last longer than a couple of weeks may not be bladder infections and may have been misdiagnosed. Contact your doctor if you still have bladder-infection symptoms after you have completed your course of antibiotics, as you will likely need further tests.