Good question! A bladder infection is a type of urinary tract infection – hence the confusion (1). A urinary tract infection can occur anywhere in the urinary tract, including the bladder, but also kidneys, ureters, or the urethra.
Like other urinary tract infections, a bladder infection is typically caused by bacteria within the bladder (1). This is caused by bacteria (usually E. coli) entering through the urethra and moving to the bladder. Of course, E. coli is naturally present in the large intestine, so it comes out in our poo. So there’s the issue. Infection causing bacteria is naturally occurring in one system, super close to another system where we DO NOT WANT IT.
The body is usually pretty good at getting rid of the bacteria by flushing it out when you pee, but bacteria is pesky, and can manage to hook onto the walls of your bladder and multiply. Your body can’t pee out all this hooked on bacteria and this leads to an infection. This is why antibiotics are needed, to aggressively destroy the bacteria where it’s sticking and multiplying.
Common symptoms of a bladder infection are similar to another type of urinary tract infection, they include (1):
If you’re experiencing pain in the upper back, or fever and vomiting, then you may have a kidney infection, which is much more serious so get yourself to a doctor!
Ok, let’s work from the top down. The kidneys are a pair of organs that lie on either side of the spine around waist level. They help sort and eliminate waste. Two ureters (narrow tubes) drain urine from each kidney down into the bladder. The bladder is a small organ that collects and stores urine. When it fills up, our body lets us know and we can voluntarily contract it to pee.
The urethra (small tube) connects the bladder to the outside world (4). Any parts of this system can get infected as bacteria travels from the up the urinary tract. As a general rule, the further up this chain, the more serious it is (4). Check out this handy chart from the Mayo Clinic:
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(1) “Bladder Infection: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis.” Healthline, Healthline Media.
(2) “What Is a Bladder Infection?”AARP, healthtools.aarp.org.
(3) “Urinary tract infection (UTI).”Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Aug. 2017.
(4) FACEP, Jerry R. Balentine DO. “Urinary Tract Infection Treatment, UTI Symptoms & Home Remedies.”MedicineNet.