Cystitis is inflammation of the urinary bladder. If you have cystitis you may develop one or more of the following symptoms:

  • a sudden urge to urinate;· urinating more often than normal;· producing only a dribble of urine each time you try to go;· a burning sensation or pain when you urinatea nagging ache in your lower abdomen or bladder area
  • producing urine which is cloudy and has a strong odour

Cystitis affects far more women than it does men. Most women will suffer from cystitis at some time during their lifetime. It is far more common during pregnancy.

Causes

Inflammation of the bladder can be caused by infection or irritation. The most common cause of cystitis is bacterial infection. Bacteria can be found in the faeces and occasionally they find their way from the anus to the urethra which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. They then travel up the urethra and into the bladder which can lead to cystitis. Cystitis is far more common in women because the urethra, vagina and anus are so close together. Bacteria can easily be transferred from the anus to the urethra, especially during sexual intercourse which is where the term 'honeymoon cystitis' comes from. Cystitis-causing bacteria can include Escherichia coli, Staphylococci, Streptococci, Proteus and Klebiella.

Irritants such as vaginal deodorants, bath additives and talcum powders can also cause cystitis.

Avoiding Cystitis

Drinking cranberry juice can help to treat and prevent cystitis. The cranberry juice prevents bacteria sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, stopping them multiplying. Personal hygiene is very important, especially around the genital area. Women should wipe from front to back after going to the toilet and should wash their hands carefully before inserting tampons. After sexual intercourse, try to pass urine and make sure you wash yourself carefully. Avoid bath additives and talcum powders. Women should avoid vaginal deodorants.

Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing and man-made fibres as they create a warm, moist environment in which bacteria thrive. Try to wear loose clothing and choose natural fibres whenever possible.

Treatment

You must drink plenty of water to flush out your system. You can also add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to a glass of water to help keep the urine alkaline. However, if you have kidney problems, heart disease, if you are on a low-salt diet or if you are pregnant or elderly, do not do this without checking with your doctor or pharmacist first. Alkalising agents can also be bought over the counter at a pharmacy. They are made up of potassium or sodium salts. They help to keep the urine alkaline and increase the output of urine. This eases the discomfort associated with cystitis and helps to flush out the bladder. Again these are not suitable for anyone with kidney problems, heart disease, those on a low-salt diet, pregnant women or the elderly.Your doctor may give you some antibiotics which will help to kill any bacteria which may be causing an infection. Simple pain relief treatments and a hot water bottle can help to ease any discomfort.Avoid tea, coffee, alcohol and fizzy drinks as they can all make cystitis worse.

Do not resist the urge to go to the toilet. If you feel you feel like you need to go, try, even if you are not producing much urine.

When To See A Doctor

Pregnant women, men, children, first time sufferers, those who do not respond to treatment and those who suffer repeated attacks of cystitis should all see a doctor.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, go and see your doctor: pain in your lower back, passing blood when urinating, a temperature of more than 38ºC, extreme thirst or unusual vaginal soreness or discharge in women. To save time, it may be a good idea to take a fresh urine sample along.