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Cystitis is a bothersome condition arising from infection in the urine. It usually resolves quickly with antibiotics. Some women are prone to repeated episodes of cystitis. Men rarely suffer from cystitis; Our doctors can prescribe presc

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What is cystitis?

Cystitis is a common type of urinary tract infection that mostly affects women. Mild symptoms often disappear on their own but if they are still present after three days then you should seek treatment. Cystitis is not serious and mainly causes irritation and inconvenience but a UTI that is left untreated can spread to the kidneys, resulting in a more serious infection.

What causes cystitis?

Cystitis occurs when bacteria from the bowel, or the surface of the skin, get into the urethra and travel up into the bladder. There are several factors which cause this to happen including frequent sex, wiping from back to front after a bowel movement, pregnancy, wearing a diaphragm and using a catheter. It is also more likely to affect women over the age of 75 or those with a low immune system. 

How to prevent cystitis

There are steps you can take to reduce the chance of getting cystitis again. These include:

  • Avoiding using perfumed soaps and toiletries around the genitals 
  • Ataying hydrated and urinating frequently, as soon as you need to go
  • Emptying your bladder after sex
  • Switching from baths to showers
  • Wiping from front to back after using the toilet
  • Wearing cotton underwear and clothing that allows the skin to breathe
  • Considering using an alternative method of contraception if you use a diaphragm as this can encourage bacteria growth. 

Will cystitis go away on its own?

Mild cystitis will often go away on its own. If your symptoms still persist after three days, or of they get worse, then visit your GP for appropriate treatment. If you have experienced cystitis in the past then you can order your treatment directly from Dr Felix.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of cystitis?

The symptoms of cystitis include: 

  • Burning, discomfort or pain during urination 
  • Having the urge to urinate more often than usual 
  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently 
  • Feeling the need to urinate soon after going to the toilet 
  • Passing dark, strong-smelling or cloudy urine 
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Feeling sick, tired and achy 
  • Bloody urine

How is cystitis diagnosed?

A GP will assess your symptoms and ask you to provide a urine sample in order to diagnose cystitis. You will then be prescribed a course of antibiotics to clear up the infection.

Female vs male cystitis

Cystitis usually affects women as they have a shorter urethra which makes it easier for bacteria to travel up it. Cystitis can occasionally affect men however and is usually more common in men who have anal sex. It can also be a sign of an underlying condition such as a kidney or prostate infection, an enlarged prostate gland or diabetes. The symptoms of male cystitis are the same and include: 

  • Pain, burning or irritation while urinating 
  • Needing to urinate more frequently or urgently than usual 
  • Dark, cloudy or strong smelling urine 
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Feeling unwell and feverish

How can cystitis affect your mind?

Cystitis can have an impact on the mental health of an elderly person. it has been known to cause confusion, dehydration, malnourishment and depression. It may have a greater impact on an individual with memory problems, such as dementia as it can exacerbate the condition. 

Treatment

How is cystitis treated?

Cystitis is treated with a course of antibiotics. The symptoms can often clear up very quickly but it's important to keep taking the antibiotics for the length of time prescribed to make sure the infection is treated properly. 

Home remedies for cystitis

Home remedies for cystitis are only suitable for mild cases of the infection. If your symptoms persist or worsen after three days then see your GP for treatment. Drinking lots of water to flush out the bacteria and taking mild painkillers can help to ease the symptoms. You should also avoid sex until the infection has cleared up as this can make it worse. Drinking cranberry juice is believed to help cystitis given the antioxidant nature of the berry, however there is no solid evidence that this works.

Q&A

How do I know if I have cystitis or something else?

One of the main symptoms of cystitis is experiencing pain, irritation or a burning sensation while urinating. This can also be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection. Your doctor can do a urine test to determine whether or not you have cystitis. If you have had unprotected sex with a new partner then you may want to get tested for STIs to rule that out.

Is cystitis dangerous?

Cystitis is relatively harmless and usually clears up within a couple of days. However, if it is left untreated then the infection can spread to the kidneys and lead to a more serious infection.

Can cystitis progress into a kidney infection?

In most cases, cystitis does not cause complications but if the infection is left untreated it can travel to the kidneys and cause a kidney infection.

How to tell the difference between cystitis and an STI?

Cystitis usually causes burning, pain or irritation while urinating, needing to pass urine more frequently and urgently than usual and feeling like your bladder isn't empty after going to the toilet. Symptoms of an STI may include an unusual discharge, bleeding from the vagina, pain during or after sex and visible sores or warts. If you are unsure, visit your GP who will assess your symptoms and do a urine test to determine whether or not you have cystitis. You can also order an at home STI testing kit from Dr Felix to check up on your sexual health.

What is honeymoon cystitis?

Honeymoon cystitis occurs directly from having sexual intercourse. Sex is a common cause of cystitis. This is because bacteria gets pushed into the urethra which then travels to the bladder where the infection occurs. The best way to avoid this is to urinate before and after sex to flush out the bacteria.

Can I drink alcohol if I have cystitis?

Alcohol should be avoided while you have cystitis as it causes irritation to the bladder which can worsen your symptoms.

Can your clothes make you more likely to get cystitis?

Wearing tight clothes such as skinny jeans or yoga pants cannot cause cystitis but they can encourage the spread of existing bacteria. Always wearing clean underwear and clothing can help to prevent this, sticking to cotton pants where possible to allow the skin to breathe.

What is the connection between cystitis and sex?

Sex is one of the main causes of cystitis. This is because during sex, bacteria from the genitals or anus gets pushed into the urethra.  Female anatomy means that the urethra is shorter and close to both the anus and vagina so it's easy for bacteria to travel. Cleaning sex toys after each use, changing condoms and washing anything going from the anus to the vagina can prevent a UTI from developing. Urinating before and directly after sex flushes out the bacteria and can stop cystitis from occurring. 

Can men get cystitis?

Cystitis is common in women but men can also get it, although this is uncommon. Cystitis cannot be passed on during sexual intercourse, so if your partner has it this does not mean you will get it too. The infection can be more serious in men because it may be a sign of an underlying condition. If you experience any of the symptoms then see your GP before taking any treatment. 

Is cystitis a UTI?

Cystitis is a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI).

Can cystitis affect fertility?

Cystitis does not affect fertility in either women or men.

Does menopause make you more susceptible to cystitis?

Women going through the menopause are more likely to get cystitis. This is because the urethra lining can become thinner and the bacteria levels in the vagina can change, making infection more likely.

Is cystitis related to prostatitis?

Prostatitis is caused by the same bacteria as cystitis. In men, cystitis can be a sign of conditions such as prostatitis but the two infections are not always related. Always see your GP if you experience cystitis so that they can determine whether or not there is an underlying cause.

Can cystitis be a sign of pregnancy?

Cystitis is more common during pregnancy as the hormone levels in the body change. Given that most women will experience cystitis at some point during their lives, it's not necessarily a sign of pregnancy on its own. If your period is late and you feel nauseous, have stomach pain or breast tenderness then these are signs you might be pregnant.

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I moved 150 miles from my GP (to uni) and was unable to go home or visit a walk in for another 2 days due to being at work (12.5 hour shifts). I filled out a quick form - and 1.5 days later I had my antibiotics delivered to my door and I am on the mend. 10/10.

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