What is Cystitis?

Cystitis is a type of urinary tract infection that causes inflammation in the bladder. The infection is typically caused by bacteria that normally exist within the gastrointestinal tract. After stool is passed, some microorganisms continue to linger around the anus. Sometimes these bacteria make it to the bladder by passing through the urethra. Because they tend to thrive in the environment created by urine, it is not unusual for them to multiply quickly and cause an infection as they sit in the bladder. Less commonly, the condition can also be caused by exposure to certain chemicals or radiotherapy.

Cystitis occurs far more frequently in women than men because the female urethra is shorter and is located closer to the anus. In addition to being a woman, common risk factors include being pregnant, having diabetes, being sexually active, using spermicide, having gone through menopause, urinary tract abnormalities, using a catheter, and having a compromised immune system.

What are the Symptoms of Cystitis?

Cystitis is relatively simple to self-diagnose, although testing is required to confirm it.

Symptoms include

  • Painful urination
  • Bloody urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Bladder pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Bladder spasms
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • General discomfort
  • Cramping
  • Vaginal irritation in women

Cystitis Causes

Cystitis is most often caused by bacterial infections or UTIs. These infections occur when certain kinds of bacteria that normally live in the bowel or on the skin make their way into the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine out of the body, and then on into the bladder. The most common kind of bacteria that causes cystitis is E. coli, though there are many kinds that can cause it.

There are also other things that can cause the bladder to become inflamed. For example, there are certain types of drugs that can cause this to happen. Radiation treatment of the pelvic area is another potential cause. Long-term use of catheters can also cause damage that leads to inflammation. Some people are also very sensitive to certain chemicals found in products such as bubble bath, feminine hygiene sprays, or spermicidal jellies. This sensitivity can cause the inflammation in the bladder.

How is Cystitis Treated?

Antibiotic medications are the most common treatment for cystitis. Usually a prescription is given to last for three to five days, with the occasional delayed prescription offered if the condition does not clear up. Mild cases may not need any treatment at all, as the body can often take care of it on its own. Ibuprofen can be used to relieve the pain and fever that frequently accompanies cystitis.

Traditional advice suggests drinking more water to aid in flushing out the bladder, but there is no proof of the benefits and some medical professionals think that it may actually increase pain.

Cystitis Prevention

Cystitis is primarily prevented by preventing UTIs.

There are many ways to do this:

  • Keeping in general good health by getting some exercise and eating decently can strengthen the immune system which will help prevent the bacteria from gaining hold. There is also some evidence that probiotics, such as those found in yogurt and unpasteurized sauerkraut, can help bolster the immune system.
  • Cranberry juice has been traditionally prescribed to help prevent cystitis and UTIs.
  • Drinking plenty of water will help your bladder flush out properly as well as increase your overall health.
  • Going to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge can also reduce the chance of infection.
  • Also go to the bathroom as soon as you can after sex as this can help flush out the bad bacteria.
  • Taking showers rather than baths has been shown to help people who are susceptible to infection.
  • If you’re a woman be sure to wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the vagina and urethra.
  • Again, if you’re a woman avoid using deodorant sprays in the genital area as this can irritate the urethra.