Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, normally caused by bacteria that has gained access to the bladder, from around the anus, through the urethra and it is a very common condition that mainly affects roughly around 50% of women, at least once, throughout their lives.
The urethra is the tube through which urine travels out of the bladder and the body. The urethra is much shorter in women than it is in men, and that is why cystitis is much more common in women than it is in men.
The urinary system consists of:
- Two kidneys, which act as filters.
- The ureters, which are the tubes carrying the urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
- The bladder, where urine is kept.
- The urethra, a tube which carries the urine out of the body.
The majority of women sufferers are normally between the ages of 15 and 34.
Cystitis can be triggered by sexual intercourse and by using perfumed bubble baths or soaps. Basically any irritation caused to the urethra and bladder can cause cystitis to be triggered.
Cystitis is either classified as a bacterial or non-bacterial inflammation.
Causes of cystitis include:
- Sensitivity to toiletries: perfumed soaps, talcum powders, antiseptics, deodorants, bubble baths, shower gels, contraceptive gels and even condoms.
- “Holding on”: not passing urine when needing to.
- Irritation: this could be due to a reaction or allergy to certain foods or alcoholic drinks.
- Dehydration: not maintaining sufficient intake of water allows the bladder and urethra to become relatively dry, allowing crystals of uric acid to form, which irritate the delicate tissue.
- Bruising: which can happen during sexual intercourse (the use of lubrication is advise in order to reduce the chance of future attacks).
- Clothing: clothes that restrict air access such as tight trousers, leotards, tights, corsets, body stockings and swimsuits can all be a source of irritation. The hard seams of jeans can also bruise the urethral opening.
- Lifestyle: too much sexual intercourse, alcohol, spicy foods, strong coffee and tea, continually sitting down or standing up or excessive sweating can provoke cystitis.
50% off all other cases are mainly caused by bacterial infections, when bacteria passes from the area around the anus to the urethra and then up into the bladder.
Symptoms of cystitis include:
- A frequent wanting to urinate.
- Being unable to wait to urinate.
- Pain or burning sensation on urination even though sometimes only a few drops of urine may be produced.
- Urine is darker or cloudier than normal.
Cystitis in children is very rare and can turn into a serious condition so any child under the age of 12 years should be taken to seek medical advise.
Also, pregnant women should visit their doctors if they suffer from the condition at any given time throughout the pregnancy since cystitis can have an ill effect on the unborn child.
Men can also suffer from cystitis occasionally but this is normally uncommon and can be a sign of a much more serious condition, that can not be treated with over the counter (OTC) products, such as kidney stones, prostate disease or bladder neoplasms.
Any man that presents himself with symptoms of cystitis should visit their doctors, especially elderly men even though the condition is more common at a later age in them.
Women should also visit their doctors for a check up if cystitis:
- reoccurs often or there is no improvement after the use of treatment.
- lasts for longer than three days.
- causes pain in the lower back or stomach since the condition may involve an infection.
- is accompanied with blood in the urine.
- provokes a raised temperature, nausea or vomiting.
- is accompanied by a vaginal discharge as this is not a symptom of cystitis.
- increases thirst or provokes weight loss.
Cystitis is normally self-limiting and should only last a few days. Treatment is straightforward and will usually alleviate the condition fairly quickly.
Over the counter products for treating cystitis are quite limited and they mainly consists of ingredients that include potassium citrate or sodium citrate, which work by making the urine less acidic.
Warning: Sodium citrate should not be used by sufferers of high blood pressure or in pregnancy, due to the high sodium content.
When suffering with cystitis, the presence of bacteria in the urine makes it far more acidic than normal, making it very painful to pass so these treatments are aimed at alkalinising the urine to reduce the discomfort and burning sensation.
The treatments consist of either tablets or small sachets containing granules that you can make into a drink by just adding water and the sufferer should take the whole course of treatment which is normally of 48 hours, even if the symptoms improve within the first 24 hours.
Potassium citrate comes in a liquid mixture and is a more traditional treatment that is still available to buy at pharmacies, it also has a more unpleasant taste regardless of its nice smell.
Sufferers are advised to drink plenty of water when using this remedy.
Always read the included information leaflets included with your medicines before using them.
Cystitis preparations are all available as a 2-day treatment course and the dose is normally of one sachet or tablet, dissolved in water, three times a day for two days.
Using painkillers such as paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen) or ibuprofen to relieve the pain; or placing a hot water bottle on the stomach, can be beneficial to help manage the symptoms too.
Those people that have a more serious case of cystitis may need to be treated by an antibiotic prescribed by their doctors.
Over the counter products for cystitis do not suit all sufferers of the condition and those concerned should check with their doctors before self-treating themselves with products that can be purchased at a pharmacy.
People that use prescribed medication, pregnant or breast feeding women, those who suffer from high blood pressure and anybody who has had kidney problems in the past should always check with their doctors if they think they may be suffering from cystitis.
Sometimes, cystitis-like symptoms can be the start of kidney problems so sufferers are advised to seek medical advise just to make sure that it is not anything serious.
Alternative homeopathic remedies:
- Apis mel
- Nux vom
The best advise that can be given to sufferers of cystitis, is to drink plenty of fluids (at least one pint every hour).
Even though drinking is the last thing anybody suffering from cystitis will want to do since that will make them urinate more often, it is the best thing to do in order to wash out any bacteria that is in the bladder and will, after a while, help relive the symptoms.
Water and cranberry juice are the best to drink when suffering from the condition. Also, drinking barley water can help to neutralise acid in the urine.
All other types of juices, tea, coffee and alcohol should be avoided since these can make cystitis more painful.
Prevention is always a much better option rather than having to cure the condition in most cases.
There are things women can do to help prevent cystitis from re-occurring and these are:
- Passing urine after sexual intercourse.
- Always washing the vaginal area from front to back, especially after sexual intercourse.
- Always wiping from front to back after going to the toilet.
- Avoiding the use of soap in the vaginal area or soaking in bubble baths or other scented bath products.
- Drinking plenty of fluids, either water or cranberry juice, every day and if an attack of cystitis has already began, to avoid drinking alcohol or acidic drinks such as fruit juices, tea and coffee.
Cranberry juice should be drank in a daily basis to maintain the health of the urinary tract.
- Never ignore the urge to urinate.
Remember, if ever in doubt, seek medical advise.
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