What is cystitis? Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bacterial bladder infection.
Almost all women will have cystitis at least once in their lifetime. Around one in five women who have had cystitis will get it again. Cystitis can occur at any age, but it’s more common in pregnant women, sexually active women, women with diabetes and women who have been through the menopause.
It’s caused by bacteria reaching the bladder and irritating the bladder lining. It’s more common in women as the urethra (the type that carries urine from the bladder) is much shorter than in men. You might have heard the term “honeymoon cystitis” which is a coin of phrase used to describe cystitis caused by sex where the urethra and bladder are irritated by friction.
The most common symptoms of cystitis include burning, pain, or stinging when you go to the toilet. You may need to visit the loo more frequently, with more urgency, and you might also notice some cloudiness in your urine.
How can I prevent it?
If you get cystitis frequently, there are some things you can try that may stop it coming back.
Try having a shower rather than a bath to avoid exposing your genitals to cleaning products for too long. Use plain, unscented cleaning products where you can. Wear underwear made from cotton rather than synthetic material. Visit the loo as soon as need to pee and after having sex. When you do go, make sure to wipe your bottom from front to back when you go to the toilet to prevent the spread of germs to the urine passage, and always stay hydrated!
You might have also heard that cranberry juice can help. The theory goes that cranberry juice increases the acidity of your urine making it difficult for bacteria to survive. Whilst it can affect the acidity of your urine slightly, there is little evidence that it is effective in helping with cystitis symptoms.
How is it treated?
Cystitis is generally a self-limiting condition, so your body will deal with the infection itself within a few days without any treatment. Sometimes it’s not caused by an infection at all and won’t need to take antibiotics to treat it. Taking an antibiotic when you don’t need it can increase the risk of bacteria becoming resistant, so your GP will only prescribe antibiotics if it’s absolutely necessary.
Dissolvable sachets are available to buy without a prescription which makes the urine less acidic that can help to reduce the discomfort. However the best option is to drink plenty of water to help flush out the infection. You should hold off on any intimate activity if you’re experiencing symptoms. Otherwise most mild cases usually get better by themselves without any further treatment.
When should I see a doctor?
There are some cases when you should see a GP about your cystitis:
- If you don’t start to see an improvement in your symptoms within three days
- If you have recurrent cystitis, which is when you have experienced it more than 3 times in the last year or 2 times in the last 6 months
- If you have other symptoms such as blood in the urine, a fever (high temperature), or pain in your back or in your side
- If you are pregnant
- If you are a man, or if a child experiences the symptoms
If talking to someone about cystitis would make you feel shy or embarrassed, remember that it’s very common and doctors and pharmacists deal with it all the time. Pharmacies also have a private consultation area available, which should make you feel more comfortable.
For more information on cystitis and treatment for the condition, please visit the links below: