Cystitis is the inflammation of the bladder. Inflammation occurs when a part of your body becomes red, itchy, swollen, and painful. Cystitis affects people of both sexes and all ages. It is more common among females than males.

Cystitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection. In most cases, it is mild in nature and the symptoms do not persist for more than 4 days. It occurs when the urethra and the bladder, which are generally clean (sterile), or microbe-free, become infected with bacteria. Bacteria attach themselves to the lining of the bladder and cause the area to become irritated and inflamed. 

The urethra is a duct that transmits urine from the urinary bladder (a muscular organ that stores urine from the kidneys) to the exterior of your body, by the process of urination. Since the urethra is significantly longer in males than females, cystitis is often seen in women.

Signs and Symptoms of Cystitis

  •  Frequent urge to urinate

  • A burning sensation when urinating

  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine

  • Traces of blood in the urine (hematuria)

  • Passing dark and strong-smelling urine

  • Sharp pain in the pelvic region (pelvic is the lower part of the trunk of the human body between the abdomen and the thighs)

  • A feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen

  • Low-grade fever

Causes of Cystitis

To understand how bacteria reaches the bladder, you will have to first know how your urinary system works. 

  • Your urinary system, which is responsible for removing waste from your body, includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. 

  • Kidneys are bean-shaped organs that filter waste and excess fluids from your blood. The contents of the kidney are then carried by the tubes named uterus to the urinary bladder where waste is stored until it is flushed out of your body through the urethra.

Common causes of cystitis are:

1. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) where bacteria outside the body, enters the urinary bladder through the urethra and thrives there. The bacteria multiply inside, forcing your immune system to generate a response, leading to the inflammation of the bladder (cystitis).

2. Sexual intercourse in women can cause cystitis. Bacteria may enter the urethra of females during or as a result of sexual intercourse. These bacteria cause UTIs, thus, leading to cystitis.

Other risk factors include:

  • Frequent or vigorous sex

  • Bladder problems such as a blockage that prevents passing out of urine on time

  • If your bladder is not emptied regularly and completely, bacteria may thrive and cause infections

  • Sensitivity to chemicals in bath and hygiene products that can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria

  • Radiation therapy around the pelvic area

Diagnosis of Cystitis

Physical examinations and lab tests are the most effective ways to diagnose cystitis.

Urine Culture or Urine Routine or Microscopy are tests done to detect the presence of cells and substances (germs like bacteria) in your urine. The urine test will either be sent to a laboratory, or your doctor may use a dipstick. 

Urine dipstick results come back quickly while the patient is still at the clinic. The dipstick is a thin plastic stick, with strips of chemicals on it used to detect abnormalities in your urine.

After finding out which specific bacteria is causing the infection, your doctor can prescribe oral antibiotics. 

Patients who get cystitis regularly may need further tests. This could include:

1. Ultrasound scan: To check abnormalities in your kidneys and bladder.

2. X-ray: Intravenous pyelogram (IVP): IVP is an X-ray examination undertaken to evaluate your kidneys, bladder, ureters. This is done by injecting contrast material (dye) into a vein in your arm.

3. Cystoscopy of the bladder, using a fiber-optic camera: A procedure to examine the lining of your bladder and the urethra.

Prevention Tips and Remedies for Cystitis

1. Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Drinking lots of fluids will flush out the toxins, including bacteria from your bladder. It is especially important if you're getting chemotherapy or radiation therapy done, particularly on treatment days.

  • Empty your bladder as soon as possible after intercourse. Drink a full glass of water to help flush bacteria.

2. Urinate frequently. If you feel the urge to urinate, don't delay using the toilet. A full bladder is often a cause of cystitis. 

  • Ensure to use clean and hygienic toilets. Be mindful of the toilets when you are outside or are traveling. Unhygienic toilet or sanitary conditions can cause UTIs, resulting in cystitis.

3. Wipe from front to back after a bowel movement. This prevents bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and the urethra.

4. Take showers rather than bubble baths. If you're susceptible to infections, showering rather than bathing in a tub may help prevent cystitis. 

  • Gently wash the skin around your 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. Washing your genital parts with warm water is enough to kill bacteria.

  • In case you take bubble baths or tub baths frequently, avoid using bath salts, bath bombs, and scented body wash/gels. 

5. Avoid using deodorant sprays or feminine products in the genital area. These products can irritate the urethra and the bladder.

6. Drink cranberry juice. Cranberries release an active ingredient known as A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs) that prevents bacteria from sticking or fastening to the walls of your bladder, thus preventing cystitis.

In most cases, mild symptoms of cystitis resolve within 4 days. If your symptoms do not get better with the above tips and remedies, consult your doctor immediately. Do not self-medicate or eat antibiotics before checking with your doctor to relieve pain and swelling.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.