Bladder infection vs. UTI: What's the difference?

Time saver 4 min read

You keep running to the bathroom to pee—or setting up shop closer to the bathroom—only to produce a few drops. On top of that dissatisfying trickle, it feels like you have killer cramps and burns when you go. You guessed it – you likely have a bladder infection or a urinary tract infection (UTI). But don’t panic. UTIs are common and you can get treatment for a UTI online.

Is a bladder infection the same as a urinary tract infection?

Often, the terms UTI and bladder infection are used interchangeably. But there is a distinction to be made between the two.

Bladder infections are a type of UTI, but not all urinary tract infections are bladder infections. A UTI is defined as an infection in one or more places in the urinary tract—the ureters, kidneys, urethra, and/or bladder. A bladder infection is a UTI that’s only located in the bladder.

How can you tell the difference between a bladder infection and a UTI?

There’s a reason that people use the terms UTI and bladder infection interchangeably—the symptoms are largely the same.

  • Burning sensation while peeing
  • Feeling of urgency to pee, but produce very little urine
  • Pelvic pain

The most common type of UTI is a bladder infection. Therefore if you have a UTI, it’s likely in your bladder. And thankfully, bladder infections are relatively simple to treat.

If you have a UTI that isn’t a bladder infection, you may experience additional symptoms.

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Lower back pain that feels more severe than a bladder infection
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pinkish or reddish urine

If you think you have a UTI, it’s important to get treated quickly to prevent the infection from spreading to your kidneys.

How do you get a bladder infection or UTI?

UTIs happen when bacteria enters the urethra and multiply. Urinary tract infections are fairly common and can happen to anyone, but the following risk factors can increase your chances of getting one.

  • The sex you're assigned at birth—People assigned female at birth have shorter urethras than those assigned male at birth, making it easier for bacteria to travel to the bladder and kidneys.
  • Hormone changes—Menopause, pregnancy and having your period can increase your risk of infection.
  • Diaphragms and spermicides—These forms of contraception can kill off good bacteria, increasing the bad bacteria which can find its way to the urethra.
  • Genetic predisposition—Genetics play a role in the shape and size of your urinary tract, making some individuals more prone to infections.
  • Sexual activity— To help prevent UTIs, pee as soon as possible after sex.
  • Hygiene habits—Bubble baths and scented feminine products might feel like self-care, but they can cause irritation and lead to UTIs. Also, always make sure to wipe front to back!
  • Chronic illness—Illnesses, like diabetes, can cause changes to your immune system, making you more prone to UTIs.
  • Not drinking enough water—Add it to the long list of reasons why you should drink more water! Staying hydrated can help stave off bladder infections.

UTIs are very common and research shows that if you get one UTI, you’re likely to get another one.  And it’s possible you could develop one without even knowing why. So it’s important to keep an eye out for symptoms, treat them promptly and practice lots of self-care if they recur.

What should I do if I think I have a bladder infection or UTI?

Because UTIs are bacterial infections, you need a prescription for antibiotics.  But, when you’re in pain and running to the bathroom every few minutes, the thought of driving to a clinic and sitting in a waiting room can be overwhelming.

Woman on the couch using her phone to answer questions about her UTI symptoms so that she can be treated online

Thankfully, Virtuwell can treat your UTI online and without a urine sample—all from the comfort of your home. Research shows that a urine culture isn’t necessary to treat common bladder infections. Just answer a few questions about your symptoms and medical history and a certified nurse practitioner will review your answers, provide a personalized treatment plan and send a prescription to your pharmacy.

Can I get UTI treatment online without insurance?

Yes! You don’t need insurance to use Virtuwell. A UTI visit at Virtwell’s online clinic is $79. This includes a diagnosis, treatment plan and free follow-up care. If you’re prescribed antibiotics or other prescription medication, your prescription is sent to your pharmacy where you pay for it – just like you would if you visited an in-person clinic. If you do use insurance, your cost for care will likely be reduced or – with some insurance plans – covered completely.

Important notes for UTI treatment

To ensure your UTI is completely gone, it’s important to finish your course of antibiotics—even if it doesn’t burn when you pee anymore. If you don’t, you risk developing an antibiotic-resistant UTI, which makes a UTI more complicated to treat.

If you’ve dealt with bladder infections or UTIs before, you’ve likely heard about home remedies—like drinking lots of cranberry juice and water as alternatives to taking antibiotics. Although “home remedies” may sound like an easier alternative, they won’t clear up an infection. Things like staying hydrated may be recommended as a part of your treatment plan, but there is no substitute for antibiotics.

How to get UTI treatment, 24/7

The sooner you get treated for your UTI, the better. If you’re feeling the burn and urgency to go, it’s time to start a visit. The longer you wait, the more risk that an infection could travel to your kidneys. You can start an online visit at Virtuwell anytime—yes, even in the middle of the night when your bladder won’t let you sleep—and UTIs are very treatable.

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