What Is Cystitis? - How to Prevent & Treat It
Cystitis is an infection of the bladder that almost always follows (is secondary to) bacterial infection in the urine. It is the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), particularly in women. The bladder is a muscular bag that stores urine from the kidneys. Urine leaves the body through a tube called the urethra. Cystitis occurs when bacteria travels up the urethra, infecting the urine and inflames the bladder lining. Sadly, most women will experience cystitis at least once in their lives. While it is painful and annoying, it isn’t dangerous or contagious, and the infection can’t be passed on to your partner during sex. If left untreated though, the infection can ‘backtrack’ deeper into the urinary system from the bladder and reach the kidneys. Something we definitely want to steer clear from because a kidney infection is serious and needs prompt medical attention as it can cause kidney damage or even kidney failure.
Causes of Cystitis
- Inserting, changing, or prolonged use of a urinary catheter
- Using a diaphragm for birth control
- Difficulty fully emptying the bladder
- Sexual activity and friction from sexual activity
- Diabetes, due to the high sugar levels in the urine providing a good environment for the bacteria to grow
- Unprotected anal sex
- A weakened immune system
Cystitis in women
Women in their late teens and older are most susceptible to cystitis, especially if they are sexually active. The female urethra is only 4 cm long, which gives bacteria easy access to 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
Cystitis in men and older people
Men tend to get cystitis later in life. Where trouble with urine flow is a symptom, this may indicate that the underlying cause is a problem with their prostate gland. Cystitis is common in older people, particularly if they are unwell. Bladder catheters and some urinary-tract operations may also increase the risk of cystitis.
Symptoms of Cystitis
Cystitis can be mild to severe. The symptoms include:
- Frequent urge to urinate, if only to pass a few drops
- Burning pain or a ‘scalding’ sensation on urination
- Strong-smelling urine
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Pain in your lower abdomen, urethral, or vaginal area
- Blood in your urine
- Pain in the upper back
How to Prevent Cystitis
If you get cystitis frequently, there are some things you can try to help prevent it returning.
- Wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet
- Pee as soon as possible after sex
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
- Wash your genitals before sex and encourage your partner to do the same.
- Change soiled nappies or incontinence pads promptly
- Keep the genital area clean and dry
- Using an unscented & microbiome friendly lubricant like Oomf
- Avoid tight underwear and tight pants
- Wear cotton underwear
- Do not use scented soap, bubble bath or talcum powder
- Do not use spermicide with diaphragm or condoms
- Do not hold your pee in if you feel the urge to go
- Do not rush when going for a pee – try to fully empty your bladder
- Do not drink lots of alcoholic drinks or coffee – they may irritate your bladder
- Do not have lots of sugary foods or drinks – they may encourage bacteria to grow
How to Treat Cystitis
Treatment from a GP
- offer self-care advice and recommend taking a painkiller
- give you a prescription for a 3-day course of antibiotics
- a vaginal oestrogen cream, if you have gone through the menopause
Lifestyle and home remedies
- Use a heating pad. A heating pad placed on your lower abdomen can soothe and possibly minimize feelings of bladder pressure or pain.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated. Avoid coffee, alcohol, soft drinks with caffeine and citrus juices — as well as spicy foods — until your infection clears.
- Take a sitz bath. Soak in a bathtub of warm water (sitz bath) for 15 to 20 minutes to help relieve pain or discomfort.
- Take a commercial urinary alkaliser. (ask your pharmacist for advice) or one teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) in water.
Prompt: So comment below what your go-to Cystitis home remedies are.