Bladder infections are known as cystitis or inflammation of the bladder. They are common in women but very rare in men. About 20% of all women get at least one bladder infection at some time in their lives. However, a man's chance of getting cystitis increases as he ages due in part to an increase in prostate size.
Symptoms of cystitis include: an urgent and often need to urinate; pain or stinging when urinating and pain in the bladder.
Doctors are not sure exactly why women have many more bladder infections than men. They suspect it may be because women have a shorter urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the bladder. This relatively short passageway which is only about an inch and a half long makes it easier for bacteria to find their way into the bladder. Also, the opening to a woman's urethra lies close to both the vagina and the anus. That makes it easier for bacteria from those areas to get into the urinary tract.
Bladder infections are not serious if treated right away. But they tend to come back in some people. It can lead to kidney infections which are more serious and may result in permanent kidney damage. Therefore it is very important to treat the underlying causes of a bladder infection and to take preventive steps to keep them from coming back.
In elderly people bladder infections are often difficult to diagnose. The symptoms are less specific and are frequently blamed on ageing. Older people who suddenly become incontinent or who begin acting lethargic or confused should be checked by a doctor for a bladder infection.
The symptoms of cystitis can also be caused by other conditions, so children and men should always see their doctor if they have symptoms of cystitis. Women should see their doctor if they experience the symptoms of cystitis for the first time. They should also return to their doctor if they have cystitis more than three times in one year.