What Causes Cystitis?

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Cystitis refers to inflammation of the bladder and usually occurs due to infection. The most common cause of cystitis is bacterial infection of the urinary tract, which spreads to the bladder where it causes irritation of the bladder lining and inflammatory symptoms. More than 85% of cases of cystitis are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli).

Cystitis among women

Women are more at risk of cystitis because the female urethra is shorter than the male urethra. In addition, the urethral opening lies in very close proximity to the anus in females, making it easy for bacteria to reach the urinary tract. Almost all women experience cystitis at some point in their lifetime and around 1 in 5 women who have had the condition get a repeat infection, referred to as recurrent cystitis.  

Some of the causes of cystitis in women include:

  • Cystitis can occur at any age but is more common among sexually active women (the bacteria from the anus can spread to the urinary tract during sexual intercourse).
  • Pregnant women who have difficulty in fully emptying their urinary bladder are at a greater risk of urinary tract infection and cystitis.
  • Women can also become infected through using tampons or a diaphragm. After using the loo, wiping in a direction from the anus to the urethral opening can also lead to contamination of the genitourinary tract.
  • Women who have had their menopause are at a greater risk of cystitis. A lack of the hormone estrogen in these women leads to thinning of the bladder and urethral lining, which predisposes to infection. Furthermore, vaginal secretions are reduced with age, making it easier for bacteria to multiply.

Cystitis among men

Although cystitis is less common among men, it may occur for more serious reasons than in women such as urinary tract infection or prostate infection (prostatitis). The urinary tract may also be obstructed and compressed by a tumor or enlarged prostate which can reduce the urinary outflow from the bladder and predispose to cystitis.

People with diabetes or kidney infections are at a greater risk of developing cystitis, as are people who wear a urinary catheter. Exposure to certain chemicals such as those found in soap and bath foams may also cause irritation and cystitis in some individuals.

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Mar 26, 2014

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