Cystitis is the medical term for inflammation of the bladder. Most of the time, the inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, in which case it may be referred to as a urinary tract infection (UTI).
What is Cystitis?
- Cystitis is the medical term for inflammation of the bladder. Most of the time, the inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, in which case it may be referred to as a urinary tract infection (UTI). A bladder infection can be painful and annoying, and can become a serious health problem if the infection spreads to your kidneys.
- Less commonly, cystitis may occur as a reaction to certain drugs, radiation therapy or potential irritants, such as feminine hygiene spray or long-term use of a catheter.
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- A feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen
- Passing cloudy or strong-smelling urine
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
Causes of Cystitis?
Your urinary system includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. All play a role in removing waste from your body. Your kidneys — a pair of bean-shaped organs located toward the back of your upper abdomen — filter waste from your blood and regulate the concentrations of many substances. Tubes called ureters carry urine from your kidneys to the bladder, where it’s stored until it exits your body through the urethra.
UTIs typically occur when bacteria outside the body enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply. The urinary system is designed to keep out such microscopic invaders. The bladder secretes a protective coating that prevents bacteria from attaching to its wall. Urine also has antibacterial properties that inhibit the growth of bacteria. However, certain factors increase the chances that bacteria will take hold and multiply into a full-blown infection.
Bacterial bladder infections may occur in women as a result of sexual intercourse. During sexual activity, bacteria may be introduced into the bladder through the urethra. But even sexually inactive girls and women are susceptible to lower urinary tract infections because the female genital area often harbours bacteria that can cause cystitis.
Although bacterial infections are the most common cause of cystitis, a number of noninfectious factors also may cause the bladder to become inflamed. Some examples:
- Interstitial cystitis. The cause of this chronic bladder inflammation, also called painful bladder syndrome, is unclear. Most cases are diagnosed in women. The condition can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
- Drug-induced cystitis. Certain medications, particularly the chemotherapy drugs cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide, can cause inflammation of your bladder as the broken-down components of the drugs exit your body.
- Radiation cystitis. Radiation treatment of the pelvic area can cause inflammatory changes in bladder tissue.
- Foreign-body cystitis. Long-term use of a catheter can predispose you to bacterial infections and to tissue damage, both of which can cause inflammation.
- Chemical cystitis. Some people may be hypersensitive to chemicals contained in certain products, such as bubble bath, feminine hygiene sprays or spermicidal jellies, and may develop an allergic-type reaction within the bladder, causing inflammation.
- Cystitis associated with other conditions. Cystitis may sometimes occur as a complication of other disorders, such as gynecologic cancers, pelvic inflammatory disorders, endometriosis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, lupus and tuberculosis.
Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for cystitis caused by bacteria. Which drugs are used and for how long depend on your overall health and the bacteria found in your urine.
Usually symptoms improve significantly within a day or so of treatment. However, you’ll likely need to take antibiotics for three days to a week, depending on the severity of your infection. No matter what the length of treatment, take the entire course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor to ensure that the infection is completely eradicated.
If you have recurrent UTIs, your doctor may recommend longer antibiotic treatment or refer you to a doctor who specializes in urinary tract disorders (urologist or nephrologist) for an evaluation, to see if urologic abnormalities may be causing the infections. For some women, taking a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual intercourse may be helpful.
Hospital-acquired bladder infections can be a challenge to treat because bacteria found in hospitals are often resistant to the common types of antibiotics used to treat community-acquired bladder infections. For that reason, different types of antibiotics and different treatment approaches may be needed.
Cranberry juice or tablets containing proanthocyanidin are the only home remedies proven to reduce your risk of recurrent bladder infections. However, don’t drink cranberry juice if you’re taking the blood-thinning medication warfarin (Coumadin). Possible interactions between cranberry juice and warfarin can lead to bleeding.
Although other preventive self-care steps have not been well studied, doctors routinely recommend the following for women who’ve had repeated bladder infections:
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Drinking lots of fluids is especially important if you’re undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, particularly on treatment days.
- Urinate frequently. If you feel the urge to urinate, don’t delay using the toilet.
- Wipe from front to back after a bowel movement. This prevents bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
- Take showers rather than baths. If you’re susceptible to infections, showering rather than bathing may help prevent them.
- Gently wash the skin around the vagina and anus. Do this daily, but don’t use harsh soaps or wash too vigorously. The delicate skin around these areas can become irritated.
- Empty your bladder as soon as possible after intercourse. Drink a full glass of water to help flush bacteria.
- Avoid using deodorant sprays or feminine products in the genital area. These products can irritate the urethra and bladder.