The term cystitis refers to inflammation of the bladder and is usually caused by infection. The risk of bladder infection is increased by factors such as urinary tract infection, injury or irritation of the urethra, transfer of bacteria from the anus to the urethra and difficulty fully emptying the bladder due to pregnancy or prostate enlargement, for example.
Women are more at risk of cystitis due to their urethras being shorter than men’s. In addition, the urethral opening in women lies in close proximity of the anus, allowing for the easy transfer of bacteria from the anus to the urinary tract. Almost all women get cystitis at least once in their lifetime and around a fifth of women who have had the condition will have it again, in which case it is termed recurrent cystitis.
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), women who have had their menopause and pregnant women who have difficulty in fully emptying their bladder.
Although cystitis is less common among men, it may occur for more serious reasons such as infection of the prostate (prostatitis) or urinary tract. The urinary tract may also be obstructed and compressed by a tumor or enlarged prostate, which may reduce urinary outflow from the bladder and predispose to cystitis.
Symptoms of cystitis
Some of the common symptoms of cystitis include:
- Pain in the lower abdomen, especially in the bladder region
- Burning and stabbing sensation on urination
- Urgent need to urinate
- Passing urine frequently but in small amounts
- Urine may be tinged with blood or may appear cloudy
Cystitis usually resolves within a few days. Antibiotics may be prescribed in more severe cases. Patients are advised to drink plenty of clear fluids such as water and fruit juices and to take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Sometimes, both partners may need to be treated. A person with cystitis may have to abstain from sexual intercourse until the infection is cleared because intercourse can worsen the condition.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc