Healthcare provider with gloved hand holding urine sample to check for bladder infection vs. UTI

Bladder Infection vs. UTI: The Differences Explained

Medically reviewed on August 31, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Both bladder infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs) can occur when the urinary tract becomes infected. However, it’s important to note that while bladder infections can be categorized as a type of UTI, UTIs cannot be exclusively characterized as bladder infections.

This distinction arises from the fact that UTIs encompass a broader range of infections that can affect various parts of the urinary system, including the bladder, urethra, kidneys, and ureters. [1] Understanding the differences between these two conditions is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment for people experiencing urinary tract infections.

What Is a UTI?

Urinary tract infections can occur when bacteria—often fecal bacteria like E.coli—from the skin or rectum enter the urinary tract, causing inflammation. In addition to the urethra, the infection can impact the bladder and kidneys if left untreated. [2]

People with a UTI often experience the following symptoms [2]:

  • Pain in the abdomen, pelvic area, genitals, and/or lower back
  • Pressure in the lower pelvis
  • Cloudy urine that has an odor
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Frequent urination or the urge to urinate
  • Dysuria, or pain when urinating
  • Blood in the urine

Sometimes, UTI patients may also have a fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting, or they may feel fatigued or confused. [2]

While anyone can get a UTI, people with vaginas are more likely to get UTIs since their urethras are shorter. [2] In fact, fifty to sixty percent of people assigned female at birth (AFAB) will experience a UTI. [3]

To diagnose a UTI, a healthcare provider will conduct a urinalysis or urine culture to identify signs of a UTI, such as white blood cells. They’ll then likely prescribe an antibiotic to rid your urinary tract of the bacterial infection, which may include: [2]

  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Sulfonamides
  • Amoxicillin
  • Cephalosporins
  • Doxycycline
  • Fosfomycin
  • Quinolones

What Is a Bladder Infection?

A bladder infection is a type of UTI that occurs when bacteria travel through the urinary tract and make their way up to the bladder. That said, bladder infections are just one type of UTI. Others include infections that impact the: [3]

  • Kidneys, which filter urine
  • Ureters, which carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • Urethra, which connects the bladder to the urethral opening

A bladder infection is also referred to as “cystitis,” which is characterized by inflammation of the bladder. All that said, a bladder infection will typically show up with the same symptoms as a general UTI, which may include: [3]

  • A feeling of urgency to urinate
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain or pressure in the pelvic area

If you’re experiencing extremely painful symptoms or if you’ve notice blood in your urine, the infection may have traveled to the kidneys, causing kidney infection. [3]

Like all UTIs, a bladder infection will be diagnosed using a urine sample and treated with an antibiotic. Typically, symptoms will dissipate within a few days following treatment. [3]

How to Prevent UTIs

Urinary tract infections, including bladder infections, can be quite uncomfortable and disruptive to daily life. So, how long can a UTI go untreated? Sometimes, your immune system can heal a UTI on its own. However, if the symptoms worsen, it is important to consult a healthcare provider. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of developing UTIs [3]:

  • Stay hydrated – Drinking a lot of water helps to flush out the harmful bacteria from the urinary system. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day to maintain good hydration.
  • Practice good bathroom hygiene – Always wipe from front to back after using the toilet. This prevents the transfer of bacteria from the anal area to the urethra, reducing the risk of infection.
  • Urinate regularly – Don't hold in urine for prolonged periods, as it can promote bacterial growth. Frequent urination helps to flush out bacteria and prevent colonization in the urinary tract.
  • Empty the bladder completely – Make sure to fully empty your bladder each time you urinate. Failure to do so can allow bacteria to multiply, increasing the chances of infection.
  • Avoid irritants – Certain products such as harsh soaps, douches, feminine sprays, and bubble baths can irritate the urinary tract and potentially lead to UTIs. Opt for gentle, fragrance-free products instead.
  • Wear breathable underwear – Choose breathable underwear made of cotton or other breathable fabrics. Avoid tight-fitting pants or underwear that can create a warm, moist environment conducive to bacterial growth.
  • Urinate before and after sexual activity – Emptying the bladder before and after sexual intercourse can help flush out bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sexual activity.
  • Practice safe sex – Use barrier methods such as condoms to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections that can increase the likelihood of developing UTIs.
  • Maintain a healthy immune system – A strong immune system can help fight off bacterial infections. Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, balanced nutrition, adequate sleep, and stress management.
  • Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol intake – These substances can irritate the bladder and increase urinary frequency, potentially making the urinary tract more vulnerable to infections.

Assess Your Urinary Tract Health With Everlywell

Overall, there is little difference between a bladder infection vs a UTI—a bladder infection is merely a type of UTI. They share virtually the same symptoms, and both can be treated with antibiotics.

If you believe you’re experiencing a UTI and are looking for ways to relieve UTI pain, make an appointment with a healthcare provider as soon as possible to prevent the infection from reaching the kidneys, which can lead to a serious and potentially life-threatening condition if left untreated.

For a convenient assessment, Everlywell provides telehealth appointments for UTI treatment online and prescriptions. Book your appointment today.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Urinary Tract Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published October 6, 2021.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Urinary Tract Infections . Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published April 6, 2023.
  3. What’s the difference between a bladder infection and a UTI? Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published May 23, 2023. Accessed July 31, 2023.
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