What is Cystitis?

Overview  |  Symptoms  |  Causes  |  Diagnosis  |  Treatment

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder, typically caused by a urine infection. It is a common bacterial infection that is typically treated with a course of antibiotics, although sometimes it can improve without the need for medication. Women are more likely to develop cystitis than men, as their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus, increasing the chance of bacteria spreading. Cystitis can also occur in children.

Symptoms of Cystitis

Symptoms of cystitis tend to vary between women, men and children; if you are older then you may not experience any symptoms at all. Symptoms of cystitis in women commonly include:

  • pain during urination
  • dark or cloudy urine; it may also be strong smelling
  • the urge to urinate frequently, but only small amounts passing at a time
  • in some cases, traces of blood may be present in urine
  • discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen
  • feeling generally unwell
  • pain during sex

Causes of Cystitis

Cystitis is caused by a bacteria that multiplies inside your bladder. This can happen in a number of ways, such as:

  • during sex
  • during pregnancy, as more pressure is put on the bladder, which can sometimes prevent it from fully emptying; the remaining urine in the bladder can cause bacteria to develop
  • after wiping when using the toilet
  • the menopause can cause the urethra and bladder lining to thin, which increases the risk of infection
  • diabetes
  • a catheter can increase your chances of developing cystitis, as a result of bruising during insertion

How is Cystitis Diagnosed?

Cystitis does not always require a visit to the doctors. Women who have had cystitis before can usually manage their symptoms at home. You should contact your doctor, however, if you have had cystitis for the first time, you’ve had it three times in a year, you have seen traces of blood in your urine, you are pregnant or have a catheter. It is also recommended that you contact your doctor if symptoms are taking longer to improve than usual. A diagnosis can usually be made based on your symptoms, although sometimes a urine sample may be advised for further testing.

Treating Cystitis

Mild cystitis will usually clear up within a few days without medical treatment. There are treatments you can try at home, which in some cases have proved beneficial in relieving and treating symptoms, including:

  • drinking lots of fluids is said to flush out the infection, although it is not medically proven
  • using over-the-counter painkillers to ease any discomfort
  • not having sex until the infection has cleared

Sometimes a short course of  antibiotics may be advised if symptoms of cystitis are persistent and do not disappear within a few days.