Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder. Usually we use this term to mean an infection causing inflammation of the bladder. This is an annoying and irritating condition which most commonly affects women, but can affect all age groups from either sex.
The main symptoms are:
- Frequency of passing water
- Urgency or the need to pass water quickly when you sense the need to pass water
- Burning or pain on passing water
- Smelly urine
- Cloudy urine
- Blood in the urine (this is a common feature and need not cause undue alarm)
- The main cause of cystitis (and other urinary tract infections) is bacteria known as coliform bacteria, which are a common occupant of the bowel
- Other bacteria may be involved
- Other types of infection may inflame the bladder
- Trauma as in "Honeymoon Cystitis" following unaccustomed and rather prolonged or vigorous sexual activity
- Radiation, for example after radiotherapy to other organs in the pelvis
Most often this can be based on the story alone. If there is doubt, then a urine specimen can be examined by the doctor using a testing dip-stick, or by a laboratory using a microscope, special stains to show up bacteria, and trying to grow (culture) any bacteria that may be there. Growing the bacteria allows us to test to find which antibiotic will best eradicate them.
Your doctor may well wish to organise further tests to rule out any possible underlying cause for urinary infection, either after one attack in a male or multiple attacks in a female. This may involve ultrasound scans, X-Ray of the kidneys and bladder using a dye injected into the blood vessels (intravenous urography), or looking into the bladder using an endoscope (cystoscopy).
- The best first aid treatment is to drink, drink, drink.
- To some extent alkalising the urine helps to eradicate the germs and also soothe the bladder. You can try using bicarbonate of soda, 5ml (1 tea spoon) in half a glass of water, two or three times a day, or one of the over the counter cystitis remedies.
- For similar reasons the folklore remedy is barley water or, these days, cranberry juice.
- If the symptoms are any more than transient, you should contact your doctor regarding the possibility of antibiotics.
- In general, drink more fluids on a regular basis. Preferably at least 1.5 litres daily.
- Passing water shortly after sex is probably a good idea in women with recurrent cystitis.
- In girls it is important to confirm they use a hygienic approach to wiping themselves.
- The Patients Encyclopaedia of Cystitis, Sexual Cystitis and Interstitial Cystitis, by Angela Kilmartin
- From a sufferer who has thoroughly researched the topic. Recommended reading, as well as various other titles by the same author.