Cystitis

What is Cystitis?

Cystitis is an infection within the bladder that is usually secondary to a bacterial infection in the urine. It is the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), particularly in women.

Causes

The bladder stores urine from the kidneys, which leaves the body through a tube called the urethra. Cystitis occurs when bacteria travels up the urethra, infecting the urine and inflaming the bladder lining. The most common bug or bacterium that causes a urinary tract infection is Escherichia coli (E. coli). While cystitis it is painful and irritative, it is not dangerous or contagious.

Symptoms

  • Urinary frequency (you may only pass a small amount of urine each time)
  • Dysuria - painful or burning sensation during urination
  • Strong smelling urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Low abdominal pain
  • Blood in the urine (haematuria)

Treatment

  • Maintain hydrated and drink plenty of fluids (this will assist to flush any bacteria)
  • Take an over-the-counter urinary alkaliser such as Ural (ask your pharmacist for advice)
  • Avoid acidic food or drink as they can aggravate the burning sensation when urinating. 
  • If there is no improvement, seek medical advice. Your GP will test your urine for any present micro-organisms. If there is a micro-organism present, antibiotics may be required. 
  • Frequent or severe attacks of cystitis need to be investigated by a GP, as there may be an underlying disorder such as kidney stones or a kidney infection.

Cystitis in Women

Women in their late teens and older are most susceptible to cystitis, especially if they are sexually active. As the female urethra is only 4 cm long, it allows bacteria to easily enter the bladder. 

Female sex hormones influence the vaginal secretions that affect the ability of bacteria to survive. This makes women more susceptible to infection:

  • During certain stages of the menstrual cycle
  • During pregnancy
  • During menopause
  • After a total hysterectomy