Bladder infection vs. UTI: Differences, symptoms, and treatment (2023)

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary tract, which includes the urethra, kidneys, ureters, and bladder. Bladder infections are the most common form of UTI.

UTIs usually happen when harmful bacteria get into the urinary tract and start spreading. They are more common in females than in males, with about 10% of females reporting at least one UTI per year and 40–60% developing an infection at least once during their life.

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The most common symptoms of a bladder infection include:

  • burning during urination
  • pain in the bladder that may feel like a persistent need to urinate, even immediately after using the bathroom
  • only getting out a few drops when trying to urinate
  • leaking urine
  • cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • pelvic or stomach pain

Some pregnant women with UTIs do not get symptoms or only notice symptoms when the infection spreads to the kidneys.

A doctor or midwife may regularly test a pregnant woman’s urine for signs of a UTI. It is important to catch UTIs that occur during pregnancy early because they can affect the health of the fetus.

Bladder infection vs. other UTIs

(Video) Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Signs & Symptoms (& Why They Occur)

The symptoms of a bladder infection, which people may refer to as cystitis, are very similar to those of UTIs in other parts of the urinary tract. As a result, it may be difficult to tell which part of the urinary tract has an infection based on the symptoms alone.

An infection in the urethra may cause pain and burning when urinating and discharge from the urethra, but bladder pain is not a symptom.

An infection that has spread to the kidneys will cause the most severe symptoms. A person with a kidney infection may notice the same symptoms as those of a bladder infection, plus fever, chills, and back pain.

Treatment is usually the same for all types of UTI, except for kidney infections. Treating a kidney infection may require a person to stay in the hospital.

Kidney infections can cause serious health conditions, so anyone with these symptoms should seek treatment as early as possible.

UTIs occur when harmful bacteria enter the urinary tract and start spreading.

Anyone can get a urinary tract infection, but certain risk factors can elevate the chances. These include:

(Video) How do you know you have a bladder infection? | Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms

  • Biological sex: Females have a shorter urethra than males, making it easier for bacteria to travel into the bladder or kidneys.
  • Menopause: People may be more vulnerable to infections after menopause.
  • Certain types of birth control: Using diaphragms and condoms with spermicide may make it easier for bacteria to get into the urinary tract.
  • Unusual urethra shape: Genetic differences in the shape of the urethra may increase a person’s risk of getting a UTI.
  • Urinary devices: Medical devices that affect the urinary system, such as catheters, may lead to UTIs.
  • Sexual activity: Some females get UTIs when they have sexual intercourse, particularly if they start to have more frequent intercourse. Urinating after intercourse may reduce this risk.
  • Chronic illness: Some illnesses that weaken the immune system, such as HIV and diabetes, make UTIs more likely.

To diagnose a UTI, a doctor will ask the person about their symptoms and carry out a physical examination. They are also likely to request a urine sample. If a certain number of white blood cells are present in the sample, they can indicate an infection.

The doctor will often send the urine sample to a laboratory where technicians will grow a culture and further analyze the bacteria to determine what antibiotics will work best.

As bacteria cause UTIs, antibiotics are the most effective treatment. It is important to take the right antibiotics at the correct dosage for a UTI, so a person should not reuse old prescriptions or self-medicate.

Sometimes, the first course of treatment does not work for a UTI. If this happens, a doctor may alter the dosage, change the antibiotics, or recommend intravenous (IV) antibiotics. People should call the doctor if their symptoms get worse after taking antibiotics or do not significantly improve within a few days.

Some people experience recurring UTIs. In these cases, a doctor may order further tests, such as an ultrasound scan or cystoscopy, to determine the root cause.

Home remedies

(Video) Kidney Infection, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Treating a UTI at home has risks. Without treatment, the infection can spread. However, about 25–42% of UTIs in females resolve on their own.

Some home remedies may help people with recurring UTIs. These remedies include:

  • Cranberry: A handful of studies suggest that cranberry may help flush out bacteria and prevent UTIs. One study found that a daily cranberry drink reduced the future need for antibiotics in women who had recently experienced a UTI. A small 2016 study that compared a cranberry extract with a placebo found that it helped prevent UTI recurrence.
  • Probiotics: Some studies suggest that probiotics can improve vaginal flora and so reduce the number of pathogenic bacteria that could cause a UTI. Vaginal probiotics containing Lactobacillus crispatus, L. rhamnosus, and L. reuteri may help prevent UTIs from coming back.
  • Estrogen: People who experience more UTIs after menopause may find that topical estrogen cream decreases their frequency.

Some at-home strategies can also reduce the discomfort of a UTI. They include:

  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids can help a person remain hydrated. They may also help a person urinate more frequently.
  • Pain medication: Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), may ease the pain of a UTI. However, these drugs will not treat the infection, so a person should still seek medical care.
  • Avoiding sex: During a UTI, it is a good idea to avoid sexual intercourse, as this can introduce more bacteria into the urinary tract.

Home remedies do not work for everyone. A person with a UTI should consult their doctor before trying alternative strategies.

It is not always possible to prevent UTIs. However, certain lifestyle changes may help, such as:

  • drinking enough water (about 2 liters per day)
  • urinating when the urge arises and not putting it off
  • urinating immediately after sex
  • practicing good hygiene
  • switching birth control method, for example, using condoms without spermicide
  • drinking cranberry juice or taking a cranberry supplement


(Video) What’s the difference between a UTI and a yeast infection?

Sometimes, a UTI spreads to the kidneys or other areas of the body, or it does not respond to antibiotics. Some people need to take multiple antibiotics or receive IV treatment in the hospital.

People with a weakened immune system and those who delay treatment are more vulnerable to complications.

Although the body may sometimes fight off a UTI on its own, waiting for this to happen carries risks. UTIs can quickly spread, causing serious kidney infections.

A person should see a doctor for any symptoms of a UTI, particularly if they are pregnant or have an underlying health condition that affects their immune system.

A person with symptoms of a kidney infection should go to the emergency room for immediate medical care. The symptoms of a kidney infection include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • feeling very sick
  • pain in the middle of the back, especially when pushing on the area


(Video) The FYI on UTIs: All you need to know to treat and prevent urinary tract infections | GMA Digital

UTIs can affect any part of the urinary tract, including the urethra, ureters, bladder, or in more serious cases, the kidneys. A bladder infection is a UTI that only affects the bladder.

It is not always possible to distinguish what UTI a person has because the symptoms of the different types can overlap. However, the treatment for most UTIs is the same. A doctor will typically prescribe antibiotics and recommend fluids.

The more promptly a person seeks treatment, the quicker they will generally get better. Early treatment also reduces the chances of a serious infection spreading to the kidneys or other areas of the body.


Can your body fight a bladder infection without antibiotics? ›

While some UTIs may go away without antibiotic treatment, Dr. Pitis cautions against foregoing antibiotics. “While it's possible for the body to clear a mild infection on its own in some cases, it can be very risky not to treat a confirmed UTI with antibiotics,” says Dr. Pitis.

How do you tell the difference between a urinary tract infection and a bladder infection? ›

Bladder infections are a type of UTI, but not all urinary tract infections are bladder infections. A UTI is defined as an infection in one or more places in the urinary tract—the ureters, kidneys, urethra, and/or bladder. A bladder infection is a UTI that's only located in the bladder.

Are UTI and bladder infections treated the same? ›

A bladder infection is a UTI that only affects the bladder. It is not always possible to distinguish what UTI a person has because the symptoms of the different types can overlap. However, the treatment for most UTIs is the same. A doctor will typically prescribe antibiotics and recommend fluids.

How does your body feel when you have a bladder infection? ›

Cystitis signs and symptoms may include: A strong, persistent urge to urinate. Pain or a burning feeling when urinating. Passing frequent, small amounts of urine.

How do I know if I have a bacterial infection in my bladder? ›

The most common sign of cystitis (the medical term for a bladder infection) is a burning feeling when you pee. Some people might call it a “scalding” sensation. Other symptoms you might have include: Need to pee more often.

What is the fastest way to get rid of a bladder infection without antibiotics? ›

Home remedies to get rid of a UTI without antibiotics
  1. Try cranberries. ...
  2. Drink plenty of water. ...
  3. Pee when you need to. ...
  4. Take probiotics. ...
  5. Get more vitamin C. ...
  6. Wear loose clothing. ...
  7. Consider switching birth control. ...
  8. Use a heating pad.

Can I get rid of a bladder infection on my own? ›

A bladder infection can get better on its own, but most of the time it doesn't. If your symptoms are minor, it's reasonable to try extra fluids and cranberry products to see if it resolves over the course of a day. If it doesn't, work with your doctor to get a urine test or visit urgent care.

What is the fastest way to get rid of a bladder infection symptoms? ›

The best thing you can do for fast relief from a bladder infection is to is see your doctor, and get an antibiotic. Antibiotics kill the bacteria that causes bladder infections and are the best way to stop a UTI in its tracks.

Can azo get rid of UTI? ›

No, AZO Urinary Tract Defense does not cure a urinary tract infection. Its purpose is to keep you comfortable and to control the infection until you can see your primary care provider. Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic medication capable of eliminating the bacteria responsible for the infection.

How long does a bladder infection last without antibiotics? ›

Some UTIs will go away on their own in as little as 1 week. However, UTIs that do not go away on their own will only get worse over time. If you think you have a UTI, speak with a doctor about the best course of action. What antibiotics treat UTIs?

Is a UTI just a bladder infection? ›

UTIs are common infections that happen when bacteria, often from the skin or rectum, enter the urethra, and infect the urinary tract. The infections can affect several parts of the urinary tract, but the most common type is a bladder infection (cystitis). Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) is another type of UTI.

Can you have a bladder infection without UTI? ›

A: Asymptomatic bacteriuria is when you have bacteria in your urinary tract but you don't have the symptoms that usually go along with UTIs. Older adults are more likely than young people to have asymptomatic bacteriuria.

What hurts when you have a bladder infection? ›

Pain from a bladder infection presents itself as a sharp or stabbing pain in the lower abdomen. If however, you begin to feel pain in the middle of your back, it could indicate that your infection has spread to your kidneys.

What are the symptoms of an inflamed bladder? ›

pain, burning or stinging when you pee. needing to pee more often and urgently than normal. feeling like you need to pee again soon after going to the toilet. urine that's dark, cloudy or strong-smelling.

What are the 5 symptoms of bacteria in urine? ›

  • A strong urge to urinate that doesn't go away.
  • A burning feeling when urinating.
  • Urinating often, and passing small amounts of urine.
  • Urine that looks cloudy.
  • Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored — signs of blood in the urine.
  • Strong-smelling urine.

How can you detect a bladder infection at home? ›

You can buy a home urinary tract infection (UTI) test kit. They are available without a prescription at a drugstore or online. The home test kit contains specially treated test strips. You hold them in your urine stream or dip them in a sample of your urine.

How do you know when a bladder infection is serious? ›

If you have symptoms of a bladder infection, see a health care professional right away, especially if you have severe pain in your back near your ribs or in your lower abdomen, along with vomiting and nausea, fever, or other symptoms that may indicate a kidney infection.

Can you flush out a bladder infection with water? ›

One of the first things to do when you have a urinary tract infection is drink plenty of water. That's because drinking water can help flush away the bacteria that's causing your infection, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

What is the best home remedy for bladder infection? ›

  • DON'T “HOLD IT”. ...
  • EAT GARLIC. ...

How many days does it take to get rid of a bladder infection? ›

For a simple bladder infection, you will take antibiotics for 3 days (women) or 7 to 14 days (men). If you are pregnant or have diabetes, or have a mild kidney infection, you will most often take antibiotics for 7 to 14 days.

What happens if you leave a bladder infection untreated? ›

If you do not treat a bladder infection, it may turn into a kidney infection, which can then result in a more serious infection that's moved into the blood stream. When this happens, sepsis can occur, causing you to become very ill.

What is the best medication for bladder infection? ›

Nitrofurantoin (Macrobid)

It kills the most common UTI-causing bacteria. It is a preferable treatment for UTIs because it has few adverse effects and a low potential for antibiotic resistance.

What foods should be avoided with a UTI? ›

Additionally, a number of common foods and drinks — artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, acidic fruits, citrus, or caffeinated drinks — can irritate your bladder, and may worsen UTI symptoms — so you should steer clear of them if you have signs of a bladder infection.

Can bladder infection symptoms be something else? ›

So, if it's not a UTI, what else could it be? Several other infectious and non-infectious disease processes can cause symptoms that mimic a UTI. These include conditions such as vaginitis, overactive bladder, and kidney stones; some sexually transmitted infections (STIs); and diseases such as bladder cancer.

Can bladder infection be misdiagnosed? ›

Background and objectives: Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common diagnosis in the emergency department (ED), often resulting in empirical antibiotic treatment before culture results. Diagnosis of a UTI, particularly in children, can be challenging and misdiagnosis is common.

What infection makes you feel like you have to pee? ›

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is the most common cause of cystitis. When you have one, bacteria in your bladder cause it to swell and get irritated, which leads to symptoms like the urge to pee more often than normal. Women tend to get cystitis much more than men do.

What is the most common cause of bladder infection? ›

Most of the time a bladder infection is caused by bacteria that are normally found in your bowel. The bladder has several systems to prevent infection. For example, urination most often flushes out bacteria before it reaches the bladder. Sometimes your body can't fight the bacteria and the bacteria cause an infection.

Can you have a bladder infection with normal urine? ›

But Nora has UTIs with symptoms.” Normal urine has no bacteria. But if bacteria get into the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder to the outside) and travel into the bladder, a UTI can occur.

Does bladder infection always show in urine test? ›

If the bacteria are not floating around in the urine, they will not be passed into your sample on urination. If the bacteria are not in your sample, they will not be detected. There are other reasons your sample may not contain detectable levels of bacteria, including over-hydration.

What are four symptoms of cystitis? ›

Symptoms of cystitis in adults

pain, burning or stinging when you pee. needing to pee more often and urgently than normal. feeling like you need to pee again soon after going to the toilet. urine that's dark, cloudy or strong-smelling.

Which 3 of these are possible signs of a urinary tract infection? ›

  • Pain or burning while urinating.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder.
  • Bloody urine.
  • Pressure or cramping in the groin or lower abdomen.


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4. Antibiotic Awareness: Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), Cystitis or Bladder Infection
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5. Painful Urination in Young Men: UTI or STD?
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