7 Most Common Bladder Infection Symptoms In Women
At 22 years old, I found myself in bed one day, ditching work with an on-and-off-again fever of 40 degrees Celsius. Besides the standard feverish chills and sweats, nothing else seemed wrong with me, so I attributed my temperature to the flu.
But one day of fever turned into three, which turned into five. I’d never had a fever that turned on and off like a light switch, so I finally decided to call the doctor. When I described symptoms, he immediately had me pee in a cup and diagnosed me with the one condition I’d never considered: a bladder infection.
I’d had a few other bladder infections in my life, but they were always accompanied by a searing sensation when I urinated, so it never crossed my mind. What I know now: There’s more than one way to experience a bladder infection (and I definitely should have called my doctor way sooner).
A bladder infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI), or infection in any part of your urinary tract system, including your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra — and most UTIs are bladder infections, says ob-gyn Dr Jessica Shepherd.
Women are, unfortunately, about 30 times more likely than men to get a bladder infection because our urethras are shorter and closer to our vagina and anus, making it easier for infection-causing bacteria to make their way into the urinary tract, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Treatment is typically an easy course of antibiotics — if you catch the infection early. Let it linger and the bacteria may spread, requiring hospitalisation. Check in with your doc if you experience any of the following bladder infection symptoms in women.
1/ Pain And Burning When You Pee
If you’ve ever had a bladder infection, you know that this symptom — due to inflammation in your bladder and urethra — is pretty hard to miss. “Usually the burning starts right as you start to pee, and as pee stops you will experience it more. You can also have pain right above the vulva, which becomes tender to the touch,” says Shepherd.
If it’s your first bladder infection, Shepherd recommends seeing your doctor right away. Otherwise, if you recognise that burning feeling, you can call your doctor and see if she’ll give you an antibiotic prescription over the phone.
2/ Having To Pee All The Time
While there’s no “normal” when it comes to toilet habits, “if you’re going more than eight times a day, or more than twice an hour, that’s probably too much,” says Shepherd.
Of course having to go frequently can have lots of other causes, and some women with bladder infections don’t have an increased urge to go. But “any change in urinary habits that doesn’t go away, especially with fever or chills, definitely needs to be investigated,” she adds.
If you’re not experiencing any other symptoms, see your doctor within a month. If you are, be sure to see your doctor within the week.
3/ Bad-Smelling Or Cloudy Urine
If your urine looks cloudy or milky, and/or if it has a strong odour like ammonia, you could have a bladder infection — and that warrants a visit to the doctor within the week. “Your urine is full of bacteria so it’s not as clear as it should be, and you might also not be well-hydrated,” says Shepherd.
4/ Blood In Your Pee
Urine that appears pink, red or cola-coloured usually has blood in it, which warrants a call to your doctor right away. “It could be from irritation of the bladder or indicate the infection is travelling up towards the kidney,” says Shepherd. “It’s often because the kidneys are spilling some blood into bladder, and that’s not a good sign.”
Having a fever of 38 degrees C or higher with or without other symptoms can be a sign of a bladder infection. Temperatures can crawl up to 40 degrees C; the higher your fever, the more likely it is you have a kidney infection (look for these kidney infection symptoms) or even sepsis.
Other symptoms of a kidney infection include severe pain in your back near your ribs or in your lower abdomen, vomiting and nausea. An intermittent fever like the one I experienced “indicates your body is fighting off infection, and it will keep working to fight off bacteria with a fever until you can’t fight anymore,” says Shepherd.
6/ Feeling Tired, Shaky, Confused, Weak
Feeling tired, shaky, confused and weak is usually one of the last symptoms of a bladder infection you’ll experience — but if you do feel this way, especially if it’s accompanied by other bladder infection symptoms, run to the doctor. “That can be a sign of sepsis, which means it’s affecting your organ systems and is in your bloodstream,” says Shepherd.
7/ Bladder Leakage
The vast majority of women experience one or more of the above bladder infection symptoms, says Shepherd. However, sometimes the only sign you might experience — especially if you’re older — is urinary leakage.
After menopause, a decrease in oestrogen increases bladder infection risk. Plus with age, women are more likely to have asymptomatic infections, with more bad bacteria in the bladder but no pain or fever.
“Leakage is one of the symptoms that might bring them in, and when we’re checking we’ll find a UTI,” says Shepherd. “Women can’t sense when their bladder is full, and when you let urine sit there for too long you can get infection.”
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