Burning with urination is an extremely common problem experienced by women and is often a sign you have a bladder infection. When we use the term “urinary tract infection”, “bladder infection”, “UTI” or “cystitis” we are referring to an infection confined to the bladder. Bladder infections occur when bacteria get into the urethra and travel up into the bladder. Fifty percent of women will experience a bladder infection in their lifetime, and many will experience frequent infections. The most common symptom of a bladder infection is pain or a burning feeling when you urinate, the need to urinate often or needing to urinate in a hurry. Pain located directly above your pubic bone may also be something you experience. Bleeding while urinating is not a typical symptom and may indicate a more serious issue.
Most bladder infections are treated with antibiotic pills for 3 to 7 days long, and symptoms usually improve within 24hrs. The diagnosis of a bladder infection is made based on your symptoms and confirmed with a urine test called a urine culture. It is important that you provide a clean sample of urine for testing before starting treatment.
How to obtain a clean sample of urine
- Sit on the toilet with your legs spread apart
- Use two fingers to spread open your labia
- Use the first wipe to clean the inner folds of the labia
- Wipe from the front to the back
- Use a second wipe to clean over the opening where urine comes out (urethra), just above the opening of the vagina
- Continue to hold the folds open and begin urinating into the toilet
- Bring the specimen container into the stream and collect a clean, mid-stream specimen
- Finish urination into the toilet
- Secure the cover
I get bladder infections a lot
The symptoms of a burning with urination may be caused by other things so your doctor should perform an evaluation for vaginal infections, vulvar irritation, sexually transmitted infections or painful bladder syndrome if your symptoms don’t improve with antibiotics. If you have more than 3 infections in 12 months or more than 2 infections in 6 months, then you have recurrent bladder infections. For many patients the exact cause is unknown so it may be necessary to see a doctor who specializes in bladder conditions.
Tips to reduce your bladder infections
- Cranberry Tablets
- Adhesion blockers like D- Mannose
- Vaginal estrogen therapy
- Drinking more fluid
- Avoiding Spermicides
Things that may increase your chances of a bladder infection
Contrary to popular opinion douching, tampon use, soaking in a hot tub, or failing to void after sexual activity has not been shown to increase your chances of getting a bladder infection. Things that will increase your chances of getting a bladder infection include:
- Sexual intercourse
- Diaphragm or Spermicide use
- Menopausal age
- Family history
- Inadequate bladder emptying
- Recent bladder or vaginal surgery
- Neurologic Problems
- Medical problems like diarrhea or diabetes
Overall, it is important to remember that bladder infections are extremely common in women and can be treated with a course of antibiotics, there are certain strategies that you may utilize to help reduce your chances of getting an infection, but often it is not possible to eliminate all infections. If your symptoms fail to improve or become recurrent then a visit to a doctor who specializes in bladder issues may be necessary.
I am board certified in Obsetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN) and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS). I currently serve as the Medical Director of Female Pelvic Medicine for the Crozer Health Medical Group in the greater Philadelphia area. I obtained my residency training in OBGYN at the Los Angeles County+ University of Southern California Medical Center and fellowship training in FPMRS at Johns Hopkins. I am passionate about the field of Women’s Health and the treatment of pelvic floor disorders like urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.