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Understanding cystitis

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What is cystitis?

Cystitis is a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that causes inflammation in the bladder. It’s most common in women, although it can affect men too. Usually the condition is more of an annoyance rather than a cause for concern, and if it is mild it may even go away on its own.

However some people experience recurring episodes of cystitis which may require regular treatment, and there is a chance that cystitis can lead to a kidney infection. It’s always important to talk to a pharmacist or GP about your symptoms and what treatment is available to you.

What are the symptoms of cystitis?

The symptoms of cystitis include:

  • Pain, stinging and burning sensations when urinating
  • Needing to urinate frequently
  • Needing to urinate urgently but only a small amount of urine is released
  • Urine is dark, cloudy and strong smelling
  • Traces of blood in your urine
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Feeling unwell, achy, tired or feverish

Children can also develop cystitis and other UTIs; however it might be hard to decide whether this is what they have as the symptoms can be dismissed as stomach bugs or flu.

Symptoms of cystitis in children include:

  • A high temperature
  • Feeling weak and tired
  • Irritability
  • A reduced appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Pain when urinating
  • Urinating more often
  • Pain in the abdomen

How do you get cystitis?

Cystitis and other UTIs are mainly caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract and causing an infection. In women the urethra, the tube that passes urine from the bladder out of the body, sits very closely to the anus and because of this bacteria can be transferred easily. To find out more about how you can develop cystitis read our cystitis causes guide.

Can you get cystitis during pregnancy?

Yes, if you’re pregnant and think that you have cystitis and have any symptoms then you should see your GP as soon as possible. Cystitis commonly occurs during pregnancy as the change in your hormones can affect the natural balance of bacteria within your vagina. As your baby grows the pressure they place on your bladder increases which may stop you from being able to fully empty your bladder when you go to the toilet.

How do you treat cystitis?

If you have symptoms of cystitis for more than a few days, you may need to visit your GP; they will tell you what treatments are available. To find out more about treating cystitis read home treatment guide

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How can you prevent cystitis?

You may not always be able to prevent cystitis; however there are things you can do to avoid getting the condition:

  • Not using perfumed soap around your genitals
  • Emptying your bladder fully when you go to the toilet
  • Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight fitting jeans
  • Wiping from front to back
  • Going to the toilet when you need to and not waiting
  • Showering rather than bathing

What is interstitial cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis is a bladder condition that causes long term pelvic pain and issues with urination. The condition is also known as painful bladder syndrome, and is much more common in women and men in their 30s and 40s. It can have a detrimental impact on people’s lives, causing them to change their lifestyle and jobs, however a range of treatments are available.

What can you drink when you have cystitis?

Making sure that you’re drinking plenty of water can help to flush out the infection from your bladder. Many women drink cranberry juice or use other products to reduce the acidity in their urine however there is little evidence to suggest that this works.

What is the best thing for cystitis?

Making sure that you stay properly hydrated throughout the day is one of the best ways to treat cystitis. To find out more about treatment read our home treatment guide.

When should I visit my GP?

Sometimes cystitis can clear up on its own, however if your symptoms do not improve within a few days you should go and see your GP.

You should also see your GP if:

  • You’re pregnant
  • You frequently get cystitis
  • You’re not sure if it is cystitis
  • You have severe symptoms

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