A bladder infection is not only uncomfortable, it can be downright painful for the millions of Americans who experience them every year. According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, bladder infections are the second most common type of infection in the body, accounting for approximately 8 million visits to the doctor each year. Although more common in women than men – women face a 50 percent greater risk – both genders are susceptible to this health problem. Some bladder infection causes can easily be prevented, while others can not.

1. The Urinary Tract

To understand bladder infection causes, you must first understand the urinary tract. It is comprized of two kidneys and ureters, your bladder and a urethra. The purpose of the urinary tract is to remove waste and toxins from your body. The kidney filters these from your blood, producing urine. The urine makes its way to the ureters, the tubes that allow the urine to flow into your bladder. When a person is ready to urinate, it flows from the bladder through the urethra and out of your body. A woman's urethra is shorter than a man's, which is why they have an increased risk of these infections.

2. The Bowel

One of the most common bladder infection causes is the bowel, home to a common bacterium known as E. coli. For women this is especially harmful because the rectum is so close to the vagina. This prosperity makes it easy for the bacteria to travel to the opening of urethra, thus causing an infection.

3. Sexual Intercourse

Once more, this is a bladder infection cause that affects more women than men. If a woman has any bacteria in her vaginal area, sexual activity can actually massage the bacteria into her urethra.

4. Catheters

Catheters are used for those who are critically ill, have undergone surgery or who can no longer control their ability to urinate (ie the elderly). Some only require a catheter for short periods of time while others have permanent catheters. These are virtual breeding grounds for bladder infections in both men and women because of their placement. The tube of the device is inserted into the urethra, allowing it to enter the bladder. The urine flows through the tube and into a bag on the outside of the body. A catheter is a bladder infection cause not only because it interferees with the body's natural ability to clear bacteria from the body (the urethra), but because bacteria builds in the tube placed in the urethra. This bacteria can easily flow back into the bladder, resulting in an infection.

5. Diabetes

People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing a urinary infection than those who do not have this health problem. Diabetes is a disease which causes sugar levels in the blood to rise. This excess sugar goes straight to the urine making it a breeding ground for bacteria.

6. Waiting to Urinate

Some people may not realize that the bladder is a muscle; it stretches to hold urine and contracts when it is time to release it. The longer a person holds their urine, even when feeling the urge to urinate, the weaker the bladder muscle becomes. A weaker bladder makes it difficult to completely empty this muscle, resulting in left over urine. When urine is left behind, it increases the risk of bacteria in the bladder. This is an infection cause that is preventable.

7. Birth Control

Some, not all, forms of birth control are causes of bladder infections in women. For instance, some spermicide can irritate a woman's skin and increase the risk of bacteria in this area. Diaphragms can interfere with the flow of urine, resulting in a build up of bacteria in the urethra and bladder.

8. Bladder Infection Causes Specific to Men

There are certain causes of bladder infections that apply only to men. Anything that obstructs the flow of urine is considered a cause, and for men, the most common are kidney stones and an enlarged prostate gland.

Knowing bladder infection causes is helpful for many – it allows some to prevent the development of this common health issue. It is vital for everyone, everywhere to take care of themselves properly. Although a bladder infection may seem trivial, it can lead to more serious conditions if not taken seriously.