Facts About Self-Treating a Bladder Infection

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A bladder infection—also known as a urinary tract infection (UTI)—occurs when bacteria multiply in the bladder. If you have a UTI, there are important at-home strategies you should use to help clear your infection. And, self-care can help prevent you from getting bladder infections in the future. But, these self-treating methods aren't enough to cure a UTI. Prescription antibiotics are the proven only way to cure a bladder infection.

Symptoms

The symptoms that typically accompany a bladder infection include a frequent urge to urinate, sharp pain or burning sensation in the urethra during urination, blood in your urine, and soreness in your lower abdomen, back, or sides.

How to Tell If You Have a Urinary Tract Infection

Diagnosis and Treatment

When you have symptoms of a bladder infection, you should call your doctor. While the majority of UTIs are not serious, they don't resolve on their own, and they can cause complications, such as a kidney infection. A urine dipstick test, microscopy, and culture may be done to confirm you have a UTI.

If you are diagnosed with a UTI, your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotic treatment. The patient information that comes with your antibiotic will be helpful. There may be foods or drinks that you need to avoid, depending on the antibiotic. Also, be aware that some antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills, so be sure to use other contraceptive methods if you need to.

For effective treatment of a UTI, you have to take your complete course of antibiotics.

Many people want to stop taking the medications once the symptoms resolve, but the full prescription is needed to ensure complete resolution of the infection, even if you are symptom-free. A urine test may be ordered about a week after completing treatment to confirm that the infection is gone.

Treatment for a UTI

Self-Care

Antibiotics are needed to eliminate the infection, but there are some things you should also do at home to help alleviate your symptoms, to make sure the infection resolves, and to prevent a relapse.

While you are taking antibiotics:

  • Drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of liquid (water is preferred) a day to help clear the infection and to prevent future bladder infections.
  • Some doctors recommend taking 500 IU vitamin C daily as soon as you notice any signs of a UTI. This will not cure the infection, but it may help your immune system to function optimally.
  • A heating pad can help relieve the pain. You can place it on your back or stomach, using a blanket or towel to protect your skin.
  • An over-the-counter treatment called Azo-Standard is available to relieve the pain and urinary urgency associated with your UTI. Azo-Standard does not, however, cure the underlying infection.
  • You will probably see advice to drink cranberry juice or take cranberry herbal supplements to treat a bladder infection. This at-home cure has not been proven to cure a bladder infection.

Prevention

There are a number of things you can do to lower your chances of getting another bladder infection. If you are prone to recurrent UTIs, you should make these preventative strategies a habit.

  • Drink plenty of water every day so that any bacteria in your bladder will be diluted with fluid.
  • You can keep bacteria flushed out of your bladder by urinating as soon as you feel the need, rather than waiting.
  • Be sure to practice good personal hygiene, wiping from front to back after you urinate or defecate, and washing daily.
  • Washing before and after sexual intercourse, or at least urinating before and after sex, may also decrease your risk of a UTI.
  • Consider wearing underwear with a cotton crotch, which allows moisture to escape. Other materials can trap moisture and create a potential breeding ground for bacteria. Wear loose-fitting clothes to help air flow keep this area dry.
  • The use of a diaphragm, unlubricated condoms, or spermicide can increase the risk of bladder infections in women. You may want to consider switching birth control methods if you have experienced bladder infections.
  • Some physicians prescribe an antibiotic to be taken immediately after sex for women who tend to have frequent UTIs.
  • Cranberries and cranberry juice have been studied as a way to prevent bladder infections. The research is not strong enough to support this, but there is some evidence that it might help.
20 Tips for Preventing Urinary Tract Infections

A Word From Verywell

You may wish you could avoid calling the doctor when you feel the symptoms of a bladder infection, but at-home methods cannot cure a bladder infection. Nevertheless, self-care methods are an important part of UTI prevention and treatment.

If you are prone to recurrent UTIs, be sure to talk to your doctor, because you may need a more thorough evaluation to see why you have this tendency.

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