Many women have bladder infections without realising it, as they may not have a definite burning sensation when urine is passed. There may be only vague symptoms like mild nausea, heartburn, or a general feeling of fatigue and malaise. A mild bladder infection may improve with alkalinising agents, some over-the-counter remedies and lots of fluids. But a heavier infection may need antibiotics to clear the bladder and prevent the infection from spreading to the kidneys, which can cause serious problems. Occasional bladder infections can happen to anyone, for a number of reasons. But infections which recur frequently must be investigated to identify and deal with the underlying cause. Most often, this is due to a narrowing of the bladder pipe caused by the repeated infections themselves. Once this narrowing has been corrected, the bladder infections seldom return. In some people, the bladder, the kidney pipes or the kidneys themselves may become damaged and scarred.
To prevent these complications, do not ignore any obvious bladder infection. If you have vague, non-specific symptoms, please see your doctor and ask to have your urine tested. Do not bring along an old urine sample that was passed hours before the consultation: rather pass a fresh sample at the surgery, so that the test will be reliable.
Most bladder infections respond well to a single course of antibiotics. If not, there may be a resistant germ which can be identified with a special laboratory urine test. Repeated infections must be referred to a specialist for investigation to prevent permanent bladder or kidney problems.