What is Cystitis?
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.
What causes cystitis?
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 travel up the urethra, infect the urine and inflame the bladder lining. 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.
Lately women, as well as men, develop the disease because of the sexually transmitted infections – chlamydia, mycoplasma, trichomonad etc
If left untreated, the infection can ‘backtrack’ deeper into the urinary system and reach the kidneys. A kidney infection is serious and needs prompt medical attention as it can cause kidney damage or even kidney failure.
What are the 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.
- Lower abdominal pain.
Women are more at risk:
Women in their late teens and older are most susceptible to cystitis, especially if they are sexually active. The female urethra is only 4cm 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 a woman more susceptible to infection during certain times including:
- Certain stages of the menstrual cycle.
- During pregnancy.
- During menopause.
- After a total hysterectomy.
How is cystitis treated?
Mild cystitis will usually go away by itself in 2-4 days. If it doesnt, you should go to see your GP. In some cases (especially if you are pregnant), a short course (3 days) of antibiotics is given for cystitis. The symptoms should start to improve after the first day of treatment. If your symptoms do not improve, go back to your GP.
Over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen can be taken to reduce discomfort (always read the label and ask your pharmacist first if you are pregnant).
The earliest symptom of cystitis is usually a faint prickling feeling on passing urine. It is possible to get rid of mild cystitis, if you take action immediately. Some suggestions include:
Drink plenty of liquids and take a commercial urinary alkaliser or one teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) in water.
How can cystitis be prevented?
In some women, one bout of cystitis allows the urinary system to build up a type of immunity and further bouts are rare. For other women, cystitis can occur quite regularly. Although not always backed up by research, some women have found the following suggestions useful:
Cranberry Max™ is powerful & highly absorbent antioxidant containing 100% natural active ingredients equivalent to 15000mg of Cranberry. Cranberry is one of the newest super-fruit extracts taking the world by storm. A fruit so rich in antioxidants, it may actually help prevent cystitis if taken regulary.
- Go to the toilet to pass urine as soon as you feel the urge, rather than holding on.
- Drink plenty of water every day to flush the urinary system.
- Wipe yourself from front to back (urethra to anus) after going to the toilet.
- Wash your genitals before sex and encourage your partner to do the same.
- Urinate after sex.
- Wear cotton rather than nylon underwear.
- Avoid wearing nylon pantyhose, tight pants or tight jeans.
- Don’t use perfumed soaps, talcum powder or any type of deodorant around the genitals.
- Avoid bubble baths.
- Treat vaginal infections such as thrush or Trichomoniasis promptly, since these organisms can encourage cystitis.