Know the basics
What is cystitis?
Cystitis is a condition in which the bladder and the top of the urethra become inflamed (red and swollen). Most of the time, the inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, and it is called a urinary tract infection (UTI). A bladder infection can be painful and annoying, and it can become a serious health problem if the infection spreads to your kidneys.
How common is cystitis?
Cystitis can happen to anyone, but more common in women than men. Sometime cystitis can become chronic (occur over and over) and become hard to treat. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of cystitis?
The common signs and symptoms of cystitis are:
- Pain and burning when urinating;
- Pain or pressure in the lower abdomen (belly);
- Cloudy or fishy smelling urine;
- Blood in the urine;
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate;
- Low grade fever.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
Seek immediate medical help if you have signs and symptoms common to a kidney infection, including:
- Back or side pain;
- Fever and chills;
- Nausea and vomiting.
If you develop urgent, frequent or painful urination that lasts for several hours or longer or if you notice blood in your urine, call your doctor. If you’ve been diagnosed with a UTI in the past and you develop symptoms that mimic a previous UTI, call your doctor.
Also call your doctor if cystitis symptoms return after you have finished a course of antibiotics. You may need a different type of medication.
Know the causes
What causes cystitis?
Most cases of cystitis are caused by a type of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria.
Bacterial bladder infections may occur in women as a result of sexual intercourse. But even sexually inactive girls and women are susceptible to lower urinary tract infections because the female genital area often harbors bacteria that can cause cystitis.
Besides infection, there are some other causes of cystitis include:
- Certain medications, particularly the chemotherapy drugs cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide.
- Radiation treatment of the pelvic area;
- Long-term use of a catheter;
- Chemicals: one people may be hypersensitive to chemicals contained in certain products, such as bubble bath, feminine hygiene sprays or spermicidal jellies, and may develop an allergic-type reaction within the bladder, causing inflammation.
- Complication of other disorders, such as diabetes, kidney stones, an enlarged prostate or spinal cord injury.
In addition, there is a type of cystitis called interstitial cystitis. The cause of this chronic bladder inflammation, also called painful bladder syndrome, is unclear. Most cases are diagnosed in women. The condition can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for cystitis?
There are many risk factors for cystitis, such as:
Some people are more likely than others to develop bladder infections or recurrent urinary tract infections. Women are one such group. A key reason is physical anatomy. Women have a shorter urethra, which cuts down on the distance bacteria must travel to reach the bladder.
Women at greatest risk of UTIs include those who:
- Are sexually active.Sexual intercourse can result in bacteria being pushed into the urethra.
- Use certain types of birth control. Women who use diaphragms are at increased risk of a UTI. Diaphragms that contain spermicidal agents further increase your risk.
- Are pregnant. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may increase the risk of a bladder infection.
- Have experienced menopause. Altered hormone levels in postmenopausal women are often associated with UTIs.
Other risk factors in both men and women include:
- Interference with the flow of urine. This can occur in conditions such as a stone in the bladder or, in men, an enlarged prostate.
- Changes in the immune system. This can happen with certain conditions, such as diabetes, HIV infection and cancer treatment. A depressed immune system increases the risk of bacterial and, in some cases, viral bladder infections.
- Prolonged use of bladder catheters.These tubes may be needed in people with chronic illnesses or in older adults. Prolonged use can result in increased vulnerability to bacterial infections as well as bladder tissue damage.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is cystitis diagnosed?
If you have symptoms of cystitis, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. In addition to discussing your signs and symptoms and your medical history, your doctor may recommend certain tests, such as:
- Urine analysis.For a suspected bladder infection, your doctor may ask for a urine sample to determine whether bacteria, blood or pus is in your urine. If so, he or she may request a urine bacterial culture.
- Cystoscopy. During this test, your doctor inserts a cystoscope — a thin tube with a light and camera attached — through the urethra into your bladder to view your urinary tract for signs of disease.
Using the cystoscope, your doctor can also remove a small sample of tissue (biopsy) for lab analysis. But this test most likely won’t be needed if this is the first time you’ve had signs or symptoms of cystitis.
- Imaging. An imaging test usually isn’t needed, but in some instances — especially when no evidence of infection is found — imaging may be helpful. For example, an X-ray or ultrasound may help your doctor discover other potential causes of bladder inflammation, such as a tumor or structural abnormality.
How is cystitis treated?
The most common treatment for cystitis is using antibiotic medicine, usually as pills for 3 to 10 days to stop a bacterial infection. The doctor may want to do another examination after 1 to 2 weeks, or earlier, to make sure that the infection is gone. If infections occur often, medicine may be needed for up to 6 months.
Causes other than infections need other treatments, including avoiding certain products, such as bubble bath and spermicides, nerve stimulation, and other drugs.
With interstitial cystitis, the cause of inflammation is uncertain, so there’s no single treatment that works best for every case. Therapies used to ease the signs and symptoms of interstitial cystitis include:
- Medications that are taken orally or inserted directly into your bladder
- Procedures that manipulate your bladder to improve symptoms, such as stretching the bladder with water or gas (bladder distention) or surgery
- Nerve stimulation, which uses mild electrical pulses to relieve pelvic pain and, in some cases, reduce urinary frequency.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cystitis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cystitis:
- Take your medicine exactly as prescribed.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especial water;
- Urinate right after having sex;
- Wear cotton clothing. Women should wear cotton pantyhose. Avoid tight-fitting undergarments and clothing;
- Keep your genital area clean. Take showers instead of tub baths;
- Avoid perfumed or deodorant products in the genital area;
- Keep other medical condition under control. For example, if you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
Call your doctor if you develop a fever or if symptoms continue even with antibiotics.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Cystitis – Prevention. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cystitis/basics/prevention/con-20024076. Accessed July 13, 2016.
Cystitis – Risk factors. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cystitis/basics/risk-factors/con-20024076. Accessed July 13, 2016.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Download version.
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Page 303.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017