What is cystitis?
Over half the women in the U.K. will suffer from cystitis at some stage in their lives and though it can be painful, it doesn’t usually cause any long term complications. Cystitis is also more common in women when they are pregnant and after the menopause.
What causes cystitis?
The most common cause of cystitis is when bacteria, that usually live in the anus, enter the urethra and travel into the bladder. This can happen during sexual intercourse, when inserting tampons or by wiping/washing your bottom from back to front. Women who use the contraceptive diaphragm may also be at risk of cystitis.
After the menopause women have a reduction in female sex hormones and so the lining of the urethra and the bladder become thinner and so are more likely to become infected and damaged. Women also produce less mucus after the menopause and without the mucus bacteria are more likely to multiply.
In women physical damage or bruising often caused by vigorous or frequent sex can also lead to cystitis this is sometimes known as ‘honeymoon cystitis’.
Men who have an enlarged prostate gland are more at risk of getting cystitis, this is because the prostate prevents the bladder from completely emptying. When the bladder is not completely emptied the small drop that is always left behind may contain bacteria (a cause of cystitis).
Symptoms linked with cystitis :
- Pain (often burning) in the genitals when passing urine.
- Feeling of wanting to pass urine more often than usual and yet having very little urine to pass.
- Urine may be dark or cloudy and contain blood.
- Strong or fishy smelling urine.
- A high temperature.
- A dull ache or pain in the lower back or abdomen.
These symptoms can also be a sign of another type of infection, such as asexually transmitted disease. If you are worried about any symptoms you have, you should visit your doctor.
How is cystitis diagnosed?
Cystitis is commonly diagnosed with a urine test, this will usually be a dipstick in your urine. However if a more detailed analysis is required your sample may be sent for a laboratory test at a hospital. The urine sample will be tested to identify the presence of any bacteria. We sell a urine dip stick test for cystitis on this website, for more information on this test or to buy click here.
If a woman gets repeated infections then the doctor should refer her for further tests such as an ultrasound or x-ray. .
What treatment is available for cystitis?
If you have mild cystitis it will usually clear by itself in 2-4 days. You can help by drinking lots of water (or any other bland liquid) as this will help to flush out bacteria and dilute your urine, so that when you pass urine it will not sting as much. However, try to avoid drinking anything, which contains caffeine such as coffee.
If you are in pain, try placing a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, on your lower back or between your thighs. Painkillers may also help to relieve the pain, ask your pharmacist for advice.
If your cystitis has not cleared up within a day or so you should consult your doctor as you may require antibiotics. Pregnant women, children and men with cystitis should always see their doctor. If your symptoms do not improve after the first few days of treatment then return to your GP.
Women who get cystitis more than twice a year may benefit from medium or long term antibiotic use.
Is there anything I can do to prevent future attacks of cystitis?
To prevent future infections you should avoid anything that might cause irritation such as:
- Nylon tights and underwear (choose cotton underwear instead).
- Tight trousers and jeans.
- Perfumed soap, talcum powder or deodorants in the genital area.
- Bubble bath and bath oils.
You should also try the following:
- After you have been to the toilet always wipe from front to back.
- Wash your genital area morning and night.
- Try to pass water before and after sex.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Try to drink at least 3 pints of liquid a day.
- Drink cranberry juice, as it stops bacteria from clinging to the cells lining the bladder.
- Pass water as soon as you feel the need – don’t “hang on”. The bladder only stays clean and free from bacteria if it is emptied regularly.
What happens if cystitis is left untreated?
The bacteria that cause symptoms of cystitis can also produce the same effects over a longer period if left untreated. This is known as chroniccystitis. This can happen when the initial course of antibiotic treatment is not completed, allowing some of the bacteria to remain, or when some germs have a resistance to treatment. Chronic symptoms of cystitis can also be experienced when there is some abnormality in the urinary tract, such as a bladder stone.