WHAT IS CYSTITIS?

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bladder infection. It is not classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Cystitis can occur at any age, in anyone, but is more common in people with a vagina who are sexually active or pregnant. Almost all women will experience cystitis at least once in their lifetime and around one in five women will get it again (known as recurrent cystitis).

HOW IS CYSTITIS CAUSED?

Cystitis is usually caused by bacteria reaching the bladder, irritating the bladder lining and causing an infection. 

This is more common in people with a vagina because they have a shorter urethra, which makes it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder.

Some things can increase your risk of getting it, including:

  • Not emptying your bladder properly (this often happens during pregnancy).

  • Bacteria being transferred from the anus to the urethra which can happen during sex, inserting tampons, using a diaphragm or not wiping front to back when using the toilet.

  • Damage or irritation of the urethra which can be caused by sex, perfumed soap or talcum powder and kidney infections.

  • Thrush and STIs such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia. 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Symptoms of cystitis include:

  • A desperate and frequent need to wee but only passing small amounts

  • Pain, burning or stinging when you wee

  • Pain in directly above your pubic area, lower back or abdomen

  • Wee that is dark, cloudy or smelly

  • Traces of blood when you wee

  • Feeling unwell, weak or feverish (hot and cold)

WHAT TREATMENT IS AVAILABLE?

If it is mild, cystitis can be easily treated at home and should pass within a few days. If it is a more serious case, a short course of antibiotics may be prescribed but if you keep on getting it (recurring cystitis) then you may be given a longer course of antibiotics.

 

Things you can do to help:

  • Take paracetamol 

  • Place a hot water bottle on your tummy, back or between your thighs

  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids – this helps your body to flush out the bacteria

  • Make sure to wee when you feel the need to

  • Avoid going anywhere without access to a toilet

 

Although you cannot pass a UTI on to your partner, it’s wise to stop having sex until it’s cleared up because sex may be uncomfortable and aggravate your symptoms.

HOW TO PREVENT CYSTITIS

If you get cystitis frequently, there are some things you can try that may stop it coming back.

But it's not clear how effective most of these measures are.

These measures include:

  • not using perfumed bubble bath, soap or talcum powder around your genitals (use plain unperfumed varieties)

  • having a shower, rather than a bath (this avoids exposing your genitals to the chemicals in your cleaning products for too long)

  • going to the toilet as soon as you need to pee and always emptying your bladder fully

  • staying well hydrated (drinking plenty of fluids may help to stop bacteria multiplying in your bladder)

  • always wiping your bottom from front to back when you go to the toilet

  • emptying your bladder as soon as possible after having sex

  • not using a diaphragm for contraception (you may wish to use another method of contraception instead)

  • wearing underwear made from cotton, rather than synthetic material, such as nylon, and not wearing tight jeans and trousers

 

Drinking cranberry juice has traditionally been recommended as a way of reducing your chances of getting cystitis. But large studies have suggested it does not make a significant difference.