Bladder Infection vs. UTI

The difference between a bladder infection and a UTI is simple, but first, we need to discuss the urinary process. Your urinary tract is made up of several key players, let’s start from the top and work our way down:

    • • Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that filter waste and toxins from your blood and produce urine. They are your body’s “sewage treatment plants”.
    • • This urine then travels down through two tube-like structures called ureters and is stored in your bladder.
    • • Your bladder is a muscular, balloon-like sac that expands when it’s full and relaxes when it empties.
    • • Nerves in your bladder walls send signals to your brain when it is full and you get the urge to go to the bathroom.
    • • When you pee, urine flows out of your bladder through the urethra, and is expelled from your body.

A urinary tract infection is an umbrella term for when one of the components above is infected with bacteria and becomes irritated, or inflamed. A bladder infection or cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) is a type of urinary tract infection. It occurs when bacteria such as E.coli travel up the urethra, to the bladder. These bacteria adhere to the bladder walls and multiply.

While a bladder infection is a UTI, not all UTIs are bladder infections. Other kinds of UTIs include kidney infections (pyelonephritis), and inflammation of the urethra (urethritis).

Bladder infection v UTI

What is the difference between a bladder infection and a UTI?

The difference between a bladder infection and UTI is that a UTI is a general term for when any of the organs that make up your urinary tract are infected e.g. your kidneys, urethra, or bladder. A bladder infection (cystitis) falls under the category of urinary tract infection, but not all urinary tract infections are bladder infections. Pyelonephritis (kidney infection) and urethritis (inflammation of the urethra) are also urinary tract infections

What are the UTI symptoms to look out for?

UTI symptoms vary. The most common signs that you have a UTI are:

  • • A strong and frequent urge to urinate.
  • • A burning sensation when you pee.
  • • Dribbling only a few drops instead of a steady urine flow.
  • • Cloudy, murky or dark urine.
  • • Blood in your urine.
  • • Pelvic pain, or pain in your lower abdomen or sides.
  • • Feeling like you can’t empty your bladder entirely.
  • • Fever, vomiting, chills.
Elderly people may experience different symptoms such as confusion, lack of balance, lethargy, decreased appetite, or decreased mobility.

What are the bladder infection symptoms?

A bladder infection (cystitis) occurs when bacteria colonizes and irritates the bladder. Because bladder infections are a type of UTI, the general symptoms overlap. Bladder infection symptoms consist of:

  • • Bloody, cloudy, dark or foul smelling urine.
  • • The need or urge to urinate frequently.
  • • Pain when your bladder is full, or pain in the pelvis, vagina, groin, or lower abdomen.
  • • Dysuria: painful urination.
  • • Pain when having intercourse.
  • • Bladder spasms: Your bladder muscle squeezes suddenly and involuntarily, and you need to urinate immediately.

What are common UTI causes?

UTI causes vary. A UTI happens when bacteria that normally colonize your gastrointestinal tract and anus such as (Klebsiella pneumoniae ) or Staphylococcus saprophyticus are introduced to your urethra.

Because women have shorter urethras than men, it is easier for bacteria to travel up and attach itself to the urethra or bladder walls and multiply. Your urinary tract is meant flush urine out, so how do bacteria get in?

  • • Sexual activity can introduce bacteria to your urethra.
  • • Wiping from back to front.
  • • Using spermicidal lube, douches, or feminine sprays.
  • • Estrogen changes during menopause make you more prone to infection.
  • • Urinary catheters increase the chance for UTIs.
  • • People with compromised immune systems such as diabetes are vulnerable to UTIs.
  • • Holding your urine for prolonged amounts of time allows bacteria to flourish.
  • • If you are pregnant or are not capable of emptying your bladder completely.
  • • Genetic factors also influence why some women are more prone to UTIs than others.

What is the best UTI treatment?

The only UTI treatment is antibiotics. A urinalysis or urine culture test performed by your doctor will determine if you have a UTI. They will then prescribe you a 3-14 day course of antibiotics to complete. It is important to take the antibiotics exactly as your physician has directed, even if you are no longer experiencing symptoms.

Cranberry juice and cranberry supplements are (
not backed) by enough scientific data to prove they can heal or prevent UTIs. While an existing UTI must be treated with antibiotics, there are preventive measuresyou can take to keep them from coming back:

  • • Pee before and after sex to flush out bacteria that might have traveled up your urethra.
  • • Wipe from front back.
  • • Avoid using spermicidal lubes. These make microabrasions in your urethra, so it is easier for bacteria to take over.
  • • Take showers over baths.
  • • Go to the bathroom when your bladder is full.
  • • Stay hydrated.
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What's the difference between and UTI and a bladder infection?

We know they're both a P.I.T.A.—but are there actual differences between urinary tract infections and bladder infections? What's the difference between a UTI and bladder infection? We explain bladder infections vs UTIs because it's important to know the differences in symptoms, treatment and most importantly, prevention!

“Oh nooooooo.”

Every time you pee, there’s an intense burning and the feeling that you haven't gotten everything out, even though you've been sitting on the toilet long after you have finished peeing. Not to mention your bladder feels like it has been reduced to the size of a pea, and you have to run off the bathroom what seems like every five minutes. Is it a UTI? Bladder Infection? Honestly, what’s the difference? It’s very common for people to use the term UTI and bladder infection interchangeably. However they can be different, and it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of both to best care for yourself. UTI stands for urinary tract infection. Your urinary tract is composed of your bladder, ureters, urethra, and kidneys.

You have a UTI when any of these body parts become infected by bacteria. On the other hand, a bladder infection is when specifically your bladder becomes infected. A bladder infection is a lower UTI infection. This means that all bladder infections are UTI’s but not all UTI’s are all bladder infections. Why is knowing the difference important? Well, where most bladder infections are much more of an annoyance than a life threatening illness, it’s important to know if you are dealing with a bladder infection or a kidney infection, (an upper UTI) which have much more serious health consequences.

Kidneys filter toxins from your blood which is essential for you to live. Kidney infections are no joke because they can cause permanent damage to your kidneys. People who already have problems with their kidneys are also at risk of kidney failure. Key symptoms of a kidney infection are the same as a bladder infection PLUS lower back pain, fever, and nausea. Bladder infections left untreated can turn into kidney infections.

When should you see your doctor?

It is important to see your doctor right away if you think you have a UTI. A bladder infection usually isn't an emergency, but pregnant women, the elderly, people with diabetes, kidney problems, or a weakened immune system are at a greater risk of negative complications. Burning during urination is the first sign of a UTI, it can also be a symptom of a vaginal yeast infection or certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). That is why it’s important to see a doctor and identify exactly what you are dealing with. Any tips on getting through a UTI? UTI’s are the absolute worst. Just remember when you are sitting on the toilet thinking ‘Why me?’ that you are not alone.

Here are some helpful tips to remember to help you get through your UTI:

Let it out! Empty your bladder as soon as you feel the need to go, even if that was literally 5 minutes ago. Every time you pee, you release the bad bacteria that’s infecting you. Stay especially hydrated by drinking plenty of water Showers over baths. Stay away from scented feminine hygiene products because they might increase irritation. Keep your genital area comfy and dry by wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes. Use heat to sooth the pain away. Try a hot water bottle or heating pad on your bladder to help with that spastic feeling. Don't have sex when you have a UTI. Get plenty of rest. Keep your doctor informed if symptoms get worse. Want more info? Check out WebMD's explanation of the difference between a UTI and a bladder infection for more information.