UTI vs. Bladder Infection: What’s the Difference?

Nick Rosen, MD
Medically reviewed by Nick Rosen, MDAugust 2nd, 2021

UTI vs. Bladder Infection: What’s the Difference?Bladder infection and urinary tract infection (UTI) are terms that frequently get tossed around, and many people can confuse the two. While bladder infections are a form of UTI, not all UTIs are bladder infections. To further add to the confusion, bladder infections are the most common type of UTI, so it’s understandable that the conditions often get mixed up. To better differentiate between them, it’s helpful to dive deeper into each condition.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

A UTI is an infection in one or more parts of the urinary tract, which includes the ureters, kidneys, urethra, and bladder. It occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra. UTIs are fairly common, with more than 3 million cases in the United States per year. Symptoms of UTIs vary from person to person, but most commonly include:

  • Urinating more often than usual or frequently having the urge to pee
  • Only producing small amounts of urine when using the restroom, despite the urge to urinate more
  • Odorous or cloudy urine
  • Pelvic pain, especially in women
  • Urine that’s pink, red, or brown in color
  • A painful burning sensation while urinating
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Bladder Infections

Bacteria enter through the urethra during a UTI. If it continues to travel up into the bladder, it becomes a bladder infection. Most cases of bladder infections are acute and occur suddenly, but some cases are chronic. Because a bladder infection is a type of UTI, it can have many of the same symptoms. Additionally, someone with a bladder infection may experience cramping or pressure in the lower abdomen or back.

Who’s at Risk of UTIs & Bladder Infections?

Anyone can get a UTI or bladder infection, but there are certain factors that put people more at risk. Generally, women experience these conditions more than men because they have shorter urethras, making the path to the bladder easier for bacteria to reach. Plus, anatomically female urethras are closer to the rectum than men’s, so there is a shorter distance for bacteria to travel. Other factors that can increase the risk of UTIs and bladder infections for both men and women include:

  • Advanced age, especially in men as their prostates enlarge
  • Immobility
  • Insufficient fluid intake
  • Surgical procedures within the urinary tract
  • Pregnancy
  • Urinary catheters
  • Sexual activity
  • A urinary obstruction (a blockage in the bladder or urethra)
  • Urinary tract abnormality, which is caused by birth defects or injuries
  • Urinary retention (difficulty emptying the bladder)
  • Diabetes
  • Narrowed urethra
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Nervous system conditions that affect bladder function, like multiple sclerosis
  • A weakened immune system

Why UTIs Should Be Treated Promptly

If a UTI is left untreated, it can continue spreading up the body into one or both of the kidneys. A kidney infection requires prompt medical attention, as it can permanently damage the kidneys or spread bacteria into the bloodstream, causing a life-threatening infection. The faster that you seek treatment for a UTI, the better.

Receive In-Home UTI Treatment

While it’s important to treat a UTI as quickly as possible, physically going to the doctor or an urgent care center can be difficult for many people. If this applies to you, know that you have the option to receive in-home UTI treatment from DispatchHealth. [availability_widget] We’re proud to supplement the care provided by doctors’ offices and emergency rooms by offering care for many conditions, including UTIs, in the comfort of our patients’ homes. The most typical treatment option for a UTI is antibiotics, which our team is happy to prescribe and send to your pharmacy. We can also send your primary care physician a report to ensure they stay updated on your medical history. Know that you have DispatchHealth available to treat your next UTI. It’s easy to contact us through our website, mobile app, or by phone. For life-threatening and time-sensitive injuries and illnesses, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. DispatchHealth shouldn’t be used in a life-threatening emergency and doesn’t replace a primary care provider.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. Sources referenced in this article:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/urinary-tract-infection-adults/bladder-infection-vs-uti
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/bladder-infection-vs-uti
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/bladder-infection
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353387
The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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