Cystitis

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder. This is an annoying and irritating condition which most commonly affects women, but can affect all age groups from either sex.

Symptoms

If you have any of the following symptoms you may be suffering from cystitis. The symptoms may vary from person to person:

Frequency of passing water. But only passing small amounts
Urgency or the need to pass water quickly when you sense the need to pass water.
Pain or burning/stinging feeling when you pass urine
Strong and often fishy smelling urine.
Cloudy urine.
Blood in the urine. (This is a common feature and need not cause undue alarm.)
A dull ache or pain in the lower back or abdomen
Feeling unwell, sick or feverish.

Causes

The main cause of cystitis (and other urinary tract infections) is bacteria known as coliform bacteria, which are a common occupant of the bowel.

Other bacteria may be involved.

Other types of infection may inflame the bladder.
A lot of sex, deep penetration.

Radiation, e.g. after radiotherapy to other organs in the pelvis.

Diagnosis

Most often you will know, you have cystitis from the burning sensation. You may have a urine infection which your doctor will run tests using a testing dip-stick. He/she will then send the sample of to the laboratory for further testing and the results will be back to you with in a day or so.

The doctor may well wish to organise further tests to rule out any possible underlying cause for urinary infection. This may involve ultrasound scans, X-ray of the kidneys and bladder using a dye injected into the blood vessels (intravenous urography), or looking into the bladder using an endoscope (cystoscopy). Usually there will be no need for this as a lot of women get cystitis and with the right treatment will pass within a few days.

Treatment

As soon as the first signs of cystitis begin to show you should drink plenty of fluids to flush out the system, dilute the urine and reduce the stinging. Drink at least a pint of water every two hours.

To some extent alkalising the urine helps to eradicate the germs and also soothe the bladder. You can try using bicarbonate of soda, 5 ml in half a glass of water, two or three times a day, or one of the over the counter cystitis remedies. Ask your chemist for some advice on what remedies are the best to take.

Cranberry juice is also good for flushing out the system and relieving any stinging.

Go to the toilet as much as you need to, don't try to 'hold on'.

Keep warm and place a well-covered hot water bottle over your tummy or between your thighs.

Avoid alcohol and sexual intercourse until you feel better.
Avoid orange juice and carbonated drinks.
Rest as much as possible.

If the symptoms are any more than transient, you should contact your doctor, when next able to, regarding the possibility of antibiotics.

Prevention

In general, drink more fluids on a regular basis. Preferably at least 8 glasses a day.

Passing water shortly after sex is probably a good idea in women with recurrent cystitis.

In girls it is important to confirm they use a hygienic approach to wiping themselves.

Always wipe yourself from front to back after using the lavatory, this helps stop germs spreading from the anus to the urethra.

Don't use scented products on your vagina or surrounding areas.

Avoid tight trousers or underwear, especially if they're made from artificial fibres. Choose cotton underwear with stockings and looser clothes such as skirts.
Always wash your vagina before and after sexual intercourse.

If your vagina feels dry during sexual intercourse use a lubricant such as KY Jelly to ease the problem of friction and lessen the chances of bruising

Recurring attacks

Some women get recurrent attacks of cystitis. This may be due to a number of reasons:

The germs may be resistant to the antibiotic your doctor has prescribed. The antibiotic can be changed once the result of the urine test is known.

There may be an abnormality in the urinary tract making repeated infections more likely--further tests or referral to hospital may be necessary.

The symptoms may not be due to cystitis at all. Vaginal infection such as thrush can cause discomfort when passing urine, but not the need to go more often. Sexually transmitted disease can cause the same discomfort, so, especially if your partner has symptoms you should both go to your doctor for help.

Try to prevent attacks by looking at your lifestyle and seeing what you can do to help yourself as soon as you have an attack are useful ways of minimising the effects of cystitis.

Check out these other articles in the Health category:

Eczema: Getting The Facts
Minor Problems During Pregnancy
Understanding Glyconutrients
Healthy Eating During Pregnancy
How Sleep Affects Our Skin