Cystitis is a painful and unpleasant condition. But you don’t have to put up with it. We explore what causes it and how to send it packing.
Most women experience cystitis at some point in their lives.
And one thing’s for sure: it’s not fun.
But what causes it?
How do you know when you’ve got it?
And what can you do to cure it — or even better, prevent it in the first place?
We’ll answer all these questions.
Let’s dive in.
In this article: 📝
- What is cystitis?
- What is the main cause of cystitis?
- What are other types of cystitis
- How do I know if I have cystitis?
- What are four symptoms of cystitis and a kidney infection?
- Will cystitis go away on its own?
- What is the treatment of cystitis?
- How long should cystitis last?
- How can I prevent cystitis?
- Cystitis: the bottom line
What is cystitis?
Cystitis is the medical name for an inflamed bladder.
It’s often caused by a urinary tract infection (known as a UTI).
But it can have other causes too.
The good news is that, while it’s uncomfortable, it isn’t usually dangerous.
And you can’t pass it on to anyone else.
What is the main cause of cystitis?
There are different types of cystitis with different causes.
This is caused by — you’ve guessed it — bacteria.
The major culprit is Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli.
It lives naturally in your gut and bowel.
But if it gets into your bladder, it can run riot, causing inflammation.
Several factors can increase the risk of bacterial cystitis:
Having female genitals.
Women have a shorter urethra than men.
So bacteria don’t have to travel so far to reach the bladder and cause problems.
Sex can introduce more bacteria.
That’s why you may hear people talk about “honeymoon cystitis.”
Wiping your bottom from back to front after going to the toilet.
This can spread bacteria from your poop.
Using a diaphragm for birth control.
The risk is higher again if you use spermicide too.
Being pregnant or going through menopause.
Changes to hormone levels can make you more vulnerable to this type of bacterial infection.
Having to use urinary catheters for long periods.
These can damage your bladder tissue and increase the risk of infection.
Interstitial cystitis is also known as “bladder pain syndrome.”
It’s a chronic condition — i.e., it lasts a long time and affects day-to-day life.
It mainly affects women, and we’re not certain what causes it.
Several factors are thought to play a part, though:
- Damage to the bladder lining, resulting in urine irritating the bladder and the nerves around it.
- Problems with the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles that control the exit of urine).
- Problems with the immune system.
What are other types of cystitis
There are other types of cystitis too:
Some drugs can cause problems when they enter your bladder.
Amongst the potential troublemakers are cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide, both used in chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy in the pelvic area can inflame the bladder.
Cystitis associated with other health conditions
Conditions including diabetes, HIV, spinal cord injuries, and kidney stones can all increase your chances of getting cystitis.
Some bladders are extra-sensitive to particular chemicals.
Bath or shower gels, spermicide, or personal hygiene sprays can all trigger cystitis in some people.
How do I know if I have cystitis?
If you’re not about what’s causing you to feel sick, the best thing to do is check with your doctor.
If you have cystitis, you could experience any — or any combination — of these symptoms:
- A strong or persistent need to pee
- Pain or a burning, dragging, or stinging sensation when you pee
- Peeing little and often
- Pee that’s cloudy, dark or has a strong smell
- Blood in your pee
- A feeling of pressure in your lower abdomen
- Feeling achy, sick or tired
Diagnosing interstitial cystitis can be more difficult.
Check out this “Do I have interstitial cystitis?” quiz from the British Association of Urological Surgeons for information on what to look for.
There are also other possible causes of discomfort in the pelvic area.
If you experience discomfort at about the same point in your menstrual cycle, for example, it may be ovulation pain that’s to blame.
What are four symptoms of cystitis and a kidney infection?
If cystitis doesn’t clear up, the infection could spread to your kidneys.
That can be very serious.
If you develop any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:
- Pain in your back
- Pain in your side
- Vomiting and nausea
- A high temperature and chills
Will cystitis go away on its own?
Mild cases of cystitis often resolve themselves without treatment.
But see your doctor if any of these apply to you:
- Your symptoms haven’t started to improve after a few days.
- Your symptoms are more severe — for example, you’ve seen blood in your pee.
- You’ve been getting cystitis often, or it’s returned after you’ve finished a course of antibiotics.
- You’re pregnant
What is the treatment of cystitis?
There are a number of options to help cystitis on its way and to manage the discomfort it causes.
Some of these can be done at home.
For others, you’ll need to see a doctor.
How can I treat cystitis at home?
Drinking lots of water can help flush out the infection.
And over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol can help manage the discomfort.
Some people also find that heat helps.
Try placing a hot water bottle on your tum or between your legs.
What gets rid of cystitis quickly?
For more severe infections, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
And for cystitis related to radiation treatment or chemotherapy, medicines can be prescribed to flush out the bladder.
Interstitial cystitis treatment
Unlike acute cystitis, interstitial cystitis requires a longer-term treatment plan.
That can include lifestyle changes like giving up smoking and changing your diet.
Exactly what an interstitial cystitis diet looks like will vary from person to person.
Keeping a food diary can help identify interstitial cystitis foods to avoid, reducing the likelihood of triggering symptoms.
Other options include tablets, intravesical medicines (medicines that pass directly into the bladder via a catheter), or even surgery.
Physiotherapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can help manage the pain.
And research has shown that acupuncture can provide effective relief too.
How long should cystitis last?
Cystitis should go away after about three days.
If your symptoms last longer than that, get in touch with your doctor.
They’ll be able to identify the root cause and advise on treatment.
How can I prevent cystitis?
A number of simple steps can reduce your chances of getting cystitis in the first place:
- Drink lots of fluids, especially water.
- Cranberry juice seems to be good at preventing cystitis too (although there’s no evidence that it cures it). But don’t take it if you’re on blood-thinning medications like warfarin.
- Don’t delay going for a pee when you feel the urge.
- Wear looser fitting cotton underwear.
- Shower rather than bath.
- Don’t use perfumed products around your genitals.
- Drink plenty of water and empty your bladder as soon as possible after sex.
- Wipe from front to back after going to the toilet.
Cystitis: the bottom line
The most common type of cystitis is a bacterial infection.
Mild cases should clear up after just a few days.
And over-the-counter painkillers and a hot water bottle can help manage the discomfort.
But if your symptoms are more severe or last longer than three days, get in touch with your doctor.
Get well soon! ❤️