Treatment

How do health care professionals treat a bladder infection?

If you have a bladder infection caused by bacteria, a health care professional is likely to prescribe antibiotics. If the diagnosis is not certain, based on your symptoms or lab test results, you may not need antibiotics. Instead, your health care professional will work to find the cause and the best treatment for your symptoms.

Medicines

Which antibiotic you take is based on the type of bacteria causing your infection and any allergies you may have to antibiotics.

The length of treatment depends on

  • how severe the infection is
  • whether your symptoms and infection go away
  • whether you have repeated infections
  • whether you have problems with your urinary tract

Men may need to take antibiotics longer because bacteria can move into the prostate gland, which surrounds the urethra. Bacteria can hide deep inside prostate tissue.

Follow your health care professional’s instructions carefully and completely when taking antibiotics. Although you may feel relief from your symptoms, make sure to take the entire antibiotic treatment.

If needed, a health care professional may prescribe other medicines to relieve any pain or discomfort from your bladder infection.

At-home treatments

Drink a lot of liquids and urinate often to speed healing. Water is best. Talk with a health care professional if you can’t drink a lot of liquids due to other health problems, such as urinary incontinence, urinary frequency, or heart or kidney failure.

A heating pad on your back or abdomen may help you manage pain from a kidney or bladder infection.

Research

Researchers are studying ways to treat or prevent bladder infections without taking antibiotics. The bacteria that cause these infections can become stronger and harder to fight when a person takes antibiotics repeatedly. Alternate approaches include probiotics, vaginal estrogen, and "watchful waiting." Talk to your health care professional about any treatment for a bladder infection before you start it, including home remedies and supplements. Some supplements can have side effects or react poorly with other medications you take.

Man drinks from a large glass of water as he works on a computer.
Drink lots of liquids and urinate often to speed healing. Water is best.

How can I prevent a bladder infection?

Changing some of your daily habits and lifestyle choices may help you prevent repeated bladder infections.

Drink enough liquids

Most people should try drinking six to eight, 8-ounce glasses of liquid a day. Talk with a health care professional if you can’t drink this amount due to other health problems, such as urinary incontinence, urinary frequency, or heart or kidney failure.

Be aware of your bathroom habits

Urinate often and when you first feel like you need to go. Bacteria can grow when urine stays in the bladder too long and can cause an infection. Urinate shortly after having sex to flush away bacteria that might have entered your urethra during sex.

After urinating or having a bowel movement, always wipe from front to back. This step is most important after a bowel movement to keep from getting bacteria into your urethra.

Wear loose-fitting clothing

Consider wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes so air can keep the area around the urethra dry.

Consider switching birth control methods if you have repeat bladder infections

If you have trouble with repeat bladder infections, talk with a health care professional about your birth control. Consider switching to a new form of birth control if you use diaphragms, unlubricated condoms, or spermicide, all of which can increase your chances of developing a bladder infection. Consider using lubricated condoms without spermicide or using a nonspermicidal lubricant.

March 2017
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Ann E. Stapleton, MD, FIDSA, FACP, University of Washington School of Medicine