Cystitis: symptoms, causes, and treatment

Written by: Top Doctors®
Edited by: Top Doctors®

What is cystitis?

Cystitis a type of urinary tract infection - commonly referred to as a UTI – which causes inflammation of the bladder. It is not a particularly serious condition but can be very uncomfortable and unpleasant for those who experience it.

Very rarely, cystitis may develop and cause a kidney infection, or be a recurrent problem for the patient. It is therefore important to check your symptoms, how long they last for, and if they occur frequently over a period of time. Cystitis is usually more frequent in women rather than men.

What causes cystitis?

When bacteria that normally live in your bowel enter the bladder through the urethra – the tube that takes urine out the body – cystitis can occur. These bacteria can also live on the skin, with no problems. The issue is when they enter the urethra, which may happen through sexual intercourse, wiping your bottom (especially if you wipe back to front), or through using tampons and diaphragms.

Women often experience cystitis more than men, possibly because the anus is closer to the urethra in the female body. The urethra is also shorter, meaning it is easier for bacteria to enter the bladder.

You can try to prevent this by staying hydrated, wearing underwear made from cotton, and avoiding tight trousers. Other measures which may help include going to the toilet as soon as possible after sex, and making sure you empty your bladder when you need to pee.

What are the symptoms of cystitis?


  • A burning sensation while urinating
  • Pain in the abdomen/tummy area
  • Feeling tired, sick, and generally unwell
  • Needing to go to the toilet frequently, or more frequently than usual
  • Dark, strong-smelling urine, which may be cloudy


Should I see a doctor?

If you present with these symptoms, it isn’t necessary to visit the doctor straight away. Most cases of cystitis clear up by themselves. Unfortunately, cystitis can be very uncomfortable, but there are ways it can be helped with self-care.

However, if you aren’t sure that the symptoms indeed point to cystitis, or they don’t improve after a few days have passed, it is a good idea to visit your doctor. If you are a man and develop cystitis, make an appointment to see the doctor. You should also pay a visit if you are pregnant, if the patient in question is a child, or if your symptoms are frequent/severe (such as seeing blood in the urine).

How can cystitis be treated?

You might have heard that cranberry juice is a form of treatment and prevention when it comes to cystitis, but sadly studies have shown it is not particularly effective.

Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics, and if you have recurrent cystitis, they may give you a prescription which allows you to visit the pharmacy for antibiotics whenever the infection returns.

Self-care methods include drinking a lot of water and taking painkillers to help with the discomfort. Some find that applying heat to the stomach area helps, like a hot water bottle or heat patch. This may also provide relief if applied between the thighs. Most doctors recommend that you avoid intercourse until the infection has passed.

If symptoms last for longer than a few days, or you have recurrent bouts of cystitis, make an appointment to see your doctor. They may be able to help you take preventative measures against the infection. 


By Topdoctors
Obstetrics & gynaecology

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