Cystitis is the medical term for inflammation of the bladder. Most of the time, the inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, in which case it may be referred to as a urinary tract infection (UTI). A bladder infection can be painful and annoying, and can become a serious health problem if the infection spreads to your kidneys.
UTI’s are generally caused from bacteria on the skin from the vagina and or the rectum that travel up into the urinary tract.
Some people are more likely than are others to develop bladder infections or recurrent urinary tract infections. Women are one such group. A key reason is physical anatomy. Women have a shorter urethra than men have, which cuts down on the distance bacteria must travel to reach the bladder.
Women at greatest risk of UTIs include those who:
- Are sexually active. Sexual intercourse can result in bacteria being pushed into the urethra.
- Use certain types of birth control. Women who use diaphragms are at increased risk of a UTI. Diaphragms that contain spermicidal agents further increase your risk.
- Are pregnant. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may increase the risk of a bladder infection.
Other risk factors in both men and women include:
- Interference with the flow of urine. This can occur in conditions such as a stone in the bladder or, in men, an enlarged prostate.
- Changes in the immune system. This can occur with conditions such as diabetes, HIV infection and cancer treatment. A lowered immune system increases the risk of bacterial and, in some cases, viral bladder infections.
- Prolonged use of bladder catheters. These tubes may be needed in people with chronic illnesses or in older adults. Prolonged use can result in increased vulnerability to bacterial infections as well as bladder tissue damage.
- Cystitis signs and symptoms often include:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Passing cloudy or strong-smelling urine
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- A feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen
- Low-grade fever
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms please contact the Women’s Clinic as soon as possible. A urine sample will be obtained for analysis so please come to the clinic with a full bladder.
Most UTI’s are treated with antibiotics. It is important to finish the whole course of antibiotics, even though you may feel better after 1 or 2 doses. If you stop taking your medication too early, your infection may return.
Please be sure to drink plenty of fluids while on antibiotics, at least 8-10 glasses of water a day. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as sodas, coffees and teas, as they can irritate your bladder.
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water.
- Urinate frequently. If you feel the urge to urinate, don't delay using the toilet.
- Wipe from front to back after a bowel movement. This prevents bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
- Take showers rather than tub baths. If you're susceptible to infections, showering rather than bathing may help prevent them.
- Gently wash the skin around the 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.
- Empty your bladder as soon as possible after intercourse. Drink a full glass of water to help flush bacteria.
- Avoid using deodorant sprays or feminine products in the genital area. These products can irritate the urethra and bladder.