Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder. It usually manifests as a desperate need to urinate often, and pain and/or stinging when you urinate. By and large it is caused by a bladder infection, but it can be caused by irritation or damage. More common in women, because they have a short urethra, it can recur many times and become a burden. So here we will take a look at the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and what you can do to help ease the symptoms and prevent the causes.
Most cases of cystitis are caused by a bacterial infection of the bladder. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as not emptying your bladder properly or when bacteria are transferred from the anus to the urethra. You may not be able to empty your bladder properly because of a blockage somewhere in your urinary system, or because of pregnancy. The transfer of bacteria can be caused by a wide range of reasons in women, including having sex, inserting a tampon, wiping after going to the toilet and using a diaphragm. The menopause can cause cystitis as it can cause the thinning of the lining of the womb and the bladder, which means that it is more likely to become infected.
Cystitis can also be caused by damage or irritation to the urethra or the surrounding area. This can be the result of frequent sex, wearing tight or synthetic clothing such as tights, chemical irritants like certain types of washing powder, diabetes, and other urinary system infections.
If you suspect that you have cystitis then you should go to your GP. However, if you are a woman and you have had it before, then you should only go to your GP unless it has occurred more than three times in a year. Cystitis will usually go away by itself with a couple of days.
If you have cystitis and don’t need to go to your GP, then there are a number of things that you can do yourself to help treat the inflammation.
- Drink lots of fluid, especially water, to flush out bacteria.
- Over the counter painkillers to relieve pain.
- Avoid having sex, as this can make the inflammation worse.
- Avoid acid foods such as sugar, sweets, fizzy drinks, alcohol etc.
You can also try D-Mannose. It can bring rapid relief from pain and has been lauded as a cure for cystitis. Some find that drinking water with sodium bicarbonate dissolved into it can relieve pain when urinating.
If your infection is very severe, then you may be prescribed antibiotics. However, do try and go without antibiotics for as long as you can as it is easy to build up an immunity to them which makes them less effective each time you use them.
While you can’t always prevent cystitis, there are a few ways you can minimise the chance of you getting the infection, or getting re-inflamed.
- Make sure that you always empty your bladder fully when you go to the toilet, and that you don’t wait too long if you need to urinate.
- Delaying urination may increase the chance of infection.
- Make sure that you wipe from front to back and not the other way round when you have been to the toilet.
- Don’t use perfumed sanitary products on sensitive areas; instead use plain, unperfumed versions.
- Try to avoid wearing tight or synthetic clothing that don’t allow your skin to breathe.
- Cranberry capsules can help to prevent cystitis and they are more effective than simply drinking the juice as they are more concentrated.
If you think that your cystitis is triggered by sex, then you should make sure that you wash your hands and genitals before and after sex. Use a lubricant during sex so you don’t cause inflammation through friction; after sex urinate and empty your bladder.