Cystitis is a common, painful inflammation of the bladder. It is caused by a bacterial infection, usually from a urinary tract infection or a sexually transmitted infection. Symptoms include urinary urgency, painful or burning sensation while urinating, cloudy or bloody urine, pain in the lower abdomen or lower back, and often a strong or foul-smelling urine. Treatment usually includes antibiotics, pain relief, and fluids to flush out the infection. In some cases, lifestyle changes and herbal remedies may be recommended to help reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.
The most common symptom of cystitis is a burning sensation when urinating. Other symptoms may include frequent and urgent need to urinate, cloudy urine, a feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen, and pain during sexual intercourse. In some cases, a fever may also be present.
The most common cause of cystitis is a bacterial infection, usually caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) or other types of bacteria. Other potential causes of cystitis include viruses, fungi, irritants, and physical factors such as kidney stones or an enlarged prostate. Additionally, certain medications, rarely, as well as radiation therapy, can cause cystitis. In some cases, the cause of cystitis is unknown.
The risk factors for Cystitis include:
- Being female. Women are more likely to get cystitis due to their shorter urethra and its proximity to the anus.
- Being sexually active or having multiple partners.
- Pregnancy or menopause, which can lead to changes in hormone levels that can make a woman more prone to infection.
- Having a urinary tract infection, which can increase the risk of cystitis.
- Use of certain medications, including those used to treat diabetes and those used to suppress the immune system.
- Having a weakened immune system, due to certain medical conditions or medications, such as chemotherapy.
- Having kidney stones or an enlarged prostate gland.
- Using diaphragms or spermicides for birth control.
- Using perfumed soaps or bubble baths that can irritate the urethra.
- Use of a urinary catheter.
- Being dehydrated and not drinking enough fluids, which can decrease the amount of urine produced and increase the risk for infection.
Cystitis is typically diagnosed through a combination of a physical exam and diagnostic tests. During the physical exam, the doctor will inspect the bladder, take a urine sample for testing, and ask questions about symptoms and medical history. Diagnostic tests may include imaging tests such as an ultrasound or CT scan, a urine culture to test for infection, and urine cytology to check for bladder cancer. Depending on the situation, the doctor may also order a cystoscopy, where a thin, flexible tube is inserted into the bladder to look for abnormalities or take a tissue sample.
The various subtypes of Cystitis include:
- Interstitial Cystitis (IC) – a chronic, painful bladder condition that causes a feeling of pressure or pain in the bladder and pelvic area.
- Acute Cystitis – a sudden, painful inflammation of the bladder caused by a bacterial infection.
- Bacterial Cystitis – inflammation of the bladder caused by a bacterial infection.
- Chronic Cystitis – long-term inflammation of the bladder from recurrent episodes of cystitis.
- Chemical or Allergic Cystitis – caused by an irritant or allergic reaction to certain medications, irritants, or allergens.
- Overflow Cystitis – occurs when the bladder is unable to completely empty due to an obstruction or nerve damage.
- Idiopathic Cystitis – a diagnosis of exclusion when no known cause can be identified.
The treatment options for cystitis depend on the underlying cause.
- Antibiotics: If cystitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are the first line of treatment.
- Pain medications: Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be used to help manage any discomfort or pain associated with the infection.
- Sitz baths and cold compresses: Sitting in a warm Epsom salt bath or applying cold compresses to the genital area can help to soothe the symptoms associated with cystitis.
- Increase fluid intake: Drinking plenty of water can help flush out bacteria and relieve symptoms.
- D-mannose: D-mannose is a natural sugar supplement that has been found to be effective in treating some cases of cystitis.
- Herbal remedies: Herbal remedies such as cranberry extract, goldenseal, uva ursi, and marshmallow root may help to reduce inflammation and soothe irritation associated with cystitis.
- Probiotics: Taking probiotics has been found to be beneficial in treating and preventing recurrent urinary tract infections.
It is important to speak with a doctor before attempting any treatment for cystitis, as some treatments may not be suitable for certain individuals.
The following steps can be taken to reduce the risk of cystitis:
- Avoid using scented soaps and bath oils when cleaning the genital area.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to help flush bacteria from the urinary tract.
- Take showers rather than baths.
- Urinate before and after sexual intercourse.
- Always wipe from front to back after using the restroom.
- Empty your bladder before and after intercourse.
- Wear loose-fitting, cotton underwear and avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing.
- Avoid using douches, spermicides, and other vaginal products.
- Clean the genital area thoroughly after sexual intercourse.
- 0. Take urine samples to your doctor if you experience discomfort or other symptoms of a urinary tract infection.
Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of cystitis. Women tend to be more likely to experience symptoms of cystitis, such as burning and frequent urination, than men. Women also tend to experience more severe cases of cystitis than men, even with similar severity of infection. As a result, women may need more aggressive treatment for cystitis. Additionally, women typically experience recurrences of cystitis more often than men, so preventive measures might be important for reducing the risk of future infection. Finally, men tend to be more likely than women to have complicated cases of cystitis, such as when the infection is caused by a sexually transmitted disease or an anatomical abnormality. In these cases, more specialty treatments may be necessary.
Nutrition plays an important role in the management of cystitis. Eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids helps to keep the urinary tract healthy and keep bacteria from entering the bladder. Eating a diet that is low in sugar, processed foods and caffeine can help reduce inflammation and improve overall bladder health. Additionally, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, may help reduce symptoms of cystitis. Avoiding foods that can irritate the bladder, such as spicy foods, alcohol and acidic foods, is also important for reducing inflammation associated with cystitis. Finally, taking a daily probiotic supplement may help boost the immune system and reduce the risk of developing cystitis.
Physical activity can help reduce the symptoms of cystitis by improving circulation and increasing the amount of fluid that can move through the bladder. Exercising helps to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, making it easier for the bladder to fully empty and aiding in the prevention of cystitis. Additionally, regular physical activity can help to improve overall health, reduce stress, and boost immunity, which can all help protect against cystitis.