What is cystitis?

Strictly speaking, cystitis means an inflammation of the bladder, but in reality it can often be used to indicate an infection of the urine which may form in any part of the urinary system and not just in the bladder alone.

What causes it?

Cystitis occurs when bacteria enter the bladder via the short passage which leads from the external opening in the body (the urethra). The condition affects up to 80% of women at some stage in their lives, and the first and most obvious reason for this is because the urethra in the female is much shorter and more exposed than in men. It leads to an opening in the vagina whereas the male urethra travels down inside the penis to its tip. Among the causes of cystitis are:

What are the symptoms?

Anyone who has ever suffered an acute attack of cystitis will be well aware of the symptoms if they recur, and will seek medical advice as quickly as possible. The first and most obvious symptom is an intense desire to urinate every few minutes. When urination does take place it will only be in minute amounts, but it will be accompanied by very severe pain. Traces of blood may also be present in the urine, and there may be pain in the lower abdomen and a general feeling of being unwell.

How is it diagnosed?

The first thing your GP will seek is a urine sample which may be sent for laboratory analysis. A small number of people suffer from recurring bouts of cystitis, even when there is no evidence of infection present. In such cases, further medical investigations may be warranted.

What is the treatment?

Once the bacteria responsible for the infection have been identified, the preferred treatment is by way of a course of antibiotics for a minimum of five days. It is very important to complete the entire course of antibiotics, even if the symptoms have disappeared. Failure to do so may result in a further flare-up of the condition as there may still be bacteria present in the bladder. Most people find that there is a rapid relief in the symptoms of cystitis within 24 to 48 hours of starting antibiotic treatment.

There are some self-help remedies which can be used to reduce the possibility of contracting cystitis. Among them are:

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