Bladder infections, also called cystitis or bladder inflammation, are much more common among women than men. In fact, about one in five women will have at least one bladder infection during their lifetime. However, men rarely experience this problem until they are older. Even then, bladder infections aren’t common, and may occur partly as a result of age-related enlargement of the prostate gland.
Why are bladder infections more common among women? One theory holds that it’s because in women, the tube that carries urine out of the body, or urethra, is shorter than in men. Since it’s only about an inch and a half, bacteria may more easily travel into the bladder.
Bladder infections are most often caused by E. coli bacteria that live in the intestinal tract. In women, the opening to the urethra is close to the vagina and the anus. Thus, women sometimes get bladder infections after sex, because vaginal intercourse makes it possible for bacteria to find their way into the urethra, and travel to the bladder.
Bladder infections can be uncomfortable, causing painful urination, but they are not serious if treated right away. If antibiotics are given as soon as symptoms begin and a diagnosis is made, most infections respond quickly and clear up.
In men, one or more bladder infections may point to an underlying cause. For example, the urinary tract could be partially blocked. In the elderly, it may be difficult to identify a bladder infection until it has progressed. The early symptoms, such as incontinence, may be wrongly attributed to aging. Older people with bladder problems should be seen by a physician for diagnosis. In most cases, if promptly identified, the condition can be treated and resolved.
Remember: for any sign of urinary problems (painful urination, blood in the urine, more frequent urination or difficulty urinating) consult a urologist. Dr. Alarcon’s practice represents compassionate, respectful and knowledgeable diagnosis and treatment.