Most bladder infections are caused by various strains of E. coli, bacteria that normally live in the gut.
Women sometimes get bladder infections after sex. Vaginal intercourse makes it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder through the urethra. Some women contract the infection -- dubbed "honeymoon cystitis" -- almost every time they have sex. Women who use a diaphragm as their primary method of birth control are also particularly susceptible to bladder infections, perhaps because the device presses on the bladder and keeps it from emptying completely. Bacteria then rapidly reproduce in the stagnant urine left in the bladder. Pregnant women, whose bladders become compressed as the fetus grows, are also prone to infections. Use of condoms and use of spermicides also increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
Bladder infections can be quite uncomfortable and potentially serious. But for most women, they clear up quickly and are relatively harmless if treated.
In men, a bladder infection may be a symptom of an underlying disorder and is generally a cause for concern. It may indicate the presence of an obstruction that is interfering with the urinary tract. Some studies have shown that uncircumcised boys are at risk of contracting a bladder infection during their first year of life possibly because bacteria may collect under the foreskin.
In recent years, more and more bladder infections come from two sexually transmitted bacteria: chlamydia and mycoplasma.
Home and hospital use of catheters -- tubes inserted into the bladder to empty it -- can also lead to infection.
Some people develop symptoms of a bladder infection when no infection actually exists. Termed interstitial cystitis, this is usually benign but difficult to treat.
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