Cystitis

Specialty of Obstetrics & gynaecology

What is cystitis?

Cystitis is a urinary tract infection (commonly referred to as a UTI), and is an inflammation of the bladder. This inflammation usually occurs as a result of a bladder infection. Cystitis is more common in women than it is in men. It usually goes away in a few days, but in more complex or recurring cases, it may need long-term treatment. 

What are the symptoms of cystitis?

Symptoms include:

  • A need to pee more frequently than ususal
  • A burning/stinging sensation when peeing
  • Cloudy urine
  • Dark, or strong-smelling urine
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling generally unwell

In children:

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Feeling irritated
  • A lack of interest in food/low appetite
  • Feeling weak

What causes cystitis?

Cystitis is most frequently caused by a bacterial infection, which happens when bacteria from other areas of the body (e.g from in the bowel or on the skin) get into the bladder. Bacteria is thought to come through the urethra, which carries urine out from your body. Women have a shorter urethra, and it is closer to the anus in women, which means they more commonly experience cystitis.

Bacteria can get into the bladder in several different ways:

  • Through sex
  • Through insertion of a tampon
  • By using a diaphragm
  • Insertion of a urinary catheter
  • Wiping back to front when going to the toilet

Cystitis can also be caused by a damaged or irritated bladder.

How can it be prevented?

Frequent cystitis infections can be difficult to deal with, but there are some measures which can help prevent cystitis from re-occurring or occurring frequently. For example, showering rather than bathing, and not using perfumed bubble bath/shower gel. Keep good sanitary habits, and wipe your bottom from front to back. Cotton underwear, and wearing trousers which are not too tight can help as well. Keep hydrated and drink enough water, but make sure to go to the toilet when you need to pee rather than holding it in. You should also make sure to empty your bladder after having sex.

If you use a diaphragm, you may want to consider using a different method of contraception if you frequently get cystitis.  

What is the treatment for cystitis?

Usually cystitis goes away on its own in mild cases, and can be treated from home using self-help methods to ease symptoms. A hot water bottle, placed on the stomach or between the thighs can help to relieve pain or soothe, along with over-the-counter painkillers. Avoid sexual intercourse until the infection has passed.

In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed, especially in recurring cases of cystitis. A doctor may prescribe a longer course of antibiotics, or continuous antibiotics for a number of months as a preventative measure. 

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