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Bladder infections are a form of urinary tract infection (UTI), but not all UTIs are bladder infections.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), bladder infections are the most common type of UTI. Doctors may also call them cystitis.

A UTI is an infection in one or more parts of the urinary tract, which includes the ureters, kidneys, urethra, and bladder. While each UTI type shares common symptoms, the location of the infection can cause some different symptoms as well.

When you have a UTI, bacteria can build up in the urinary tract, irritating the lining. Bladder infections tend to cause symptoms that include the following:

bladder infection SYMPTOMS
  • burning when urinating (dysuria)
  • feeling like you have to pee frequently, but very little urine comes out
  • pelvic pain or pain just above the pubic bone

Because most UTIs are bladder infections, these are the symptoms most people experience when they have a UTI.

People with urethritis — an infection of the urethra, or the tubes that connect the bladder to the opening of the body — may also experience itching or irritation at the end of the urethra where the pee comes out.

These symptoms can be slightly different from a kidney infection, a more serious UTI type. A kidney infection usually affects one kidney. The symptoms of a kidney infection can include:

UTI symptoms
  • chills
  • fever
  • having pee that smells bad or is cloudy
  • lower back pain that’s more severe than a bladder infection
  • nausea
  • pink- or red-tinged urine, a sign of bleeding in the urinary tract
  • vomiting
  • burning when urinating (dysuria)
  • feeling like you have to pee frequently, but very little urine comes out
  • pelvic pain or pain just above the pubic bone

Doctors will consider a person’s symptoms when determining what UTI type a person likely has. Usually, kidney infection symptoms are worse than those of a bladder infection.

Which infections are worse?

Most doctors regard kidney infections as the worst type of UTI, according to the NIDDK. A kidney infection is usually caused by a bladder or urethra infection where the bacteria multiply and travel upward toward the kidneys.

Kidney infections can be extremely serious and painful, sometimes leading to hospitalization to receive intravenous antibiotics. If left untreated, kidney infections due to UTIs can cause infections in the bloodstream. This can be life-threatening.

Treatments for UTIs often depend on the severity of the infection. Doctors often divide UTIs into “simple” and “complicated” infections.

Bladder infections usually fall into the “simple” category. Doctors can usually treat them with antibiotics over the course of three to five days. Common antibiotics used to treat bladder infections include trimethoprim, ciprofloxacin, and amoxicillin-clavulanate potassium.

If you have an infection, you should always take all of your antibiotics, even if you feel better. This keeps the infection from coming back.

Complicated UTIs are harder to treat. Kidney infections usually fall into this category. If you have a complicated UTI, you may require IV antibiotics and have to take antibiotics for a week or more.

Home remedies

Doctors may recommend some home remedies along with antibiotics to treat UTIs. These can also help to prevent UTIs too. Examples of these remedies include:

home remedies for uti
  • Drink plenty of fluids each day so urine is a pale yellow color.
  • Some research suggests that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry products may help to reduce UTI risk. While other reports say science hasn’t proven cranberry helps all people, it may help some people. Shop for 100 percent cranberry juice and cranberry supplements.
  • Wipe from front to back after urinating. This helps women prevent introducing bacteria from the rectum into the urinary tract.
  • Always go to the bathroom when you get the urge. Don’t hold it for long periods of time. Also, go to the bathroom and fully empty your bladder before you go to bed.
  • Go to the bathroom and clean the genital area every time after you have sex.

Applying warm compresses or a cloth-covered heating pad to the pubic area may help to ease some of the discomfort associated with a bladder infection.

A person is more likely to get a bladder infection if they don’t urinate frequently enough. If they hold their urine in, the bacteria can collect in the bladder and lead to infection. Try to go to the bathroom at least every two to three hours to keep this from happening.

Not drinking enough water is another risk factor for bladder infections because your body doesn’t move as much urine through the bladder as quickly.

Risk factors for urethritis include having a sexually transmitted infection or from trauma to the urethra, such as due to the insertion of a urinary catheter.

In addition to these specific risk factors for bladder infections, there are general risk factors for all UTI types. These include:

risk factors for uti
  • being pregnant
  • having diabetes, as a person experiences changes to their immune system that make them more prone to UTIs
  • having an enlarged prostate
  • having low levels of estrogen, such as when a woman is post-menopausal
  • having a history of kidney stones, which can block the flow of urine through the urinary tract

Women are also more likely than men to get UTIs because their urethra is shorter. The bacteria have less distance to go to reach the bladder and can cause infections.

Seek treatment for a bladder infection before it becomes worse and potentially causes a kidney infection. Bladder infections are uncomfortable to painful, but they are highly treatable with antibiotics.

Some people are more prone to having frequent UTIs. When this is the case, a doctor may recommend lifestyle changes and preventive antibiotics.