Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder. Most often, that inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection known as a urinary tract infection (UTI). If the infection spreads to the kidney, an infection can become a serious health issue.
Cystitis can also be caused by certain drugs, exposure to radiation, or exposure to other irritants such as long-term catheter use or spermicidal jellies. The condition can also arise as a complication of another illness.
Depending on the cause, cystitis is commonly treated by taking antibiotics. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one in five women will experience a UTI during her lifetime.
There is more than one type of cystitis. Common types include bacterial cystitis and interstitial cystitis.
Cystitis commonly occurs due to a UTI, but it may also have other causes. Patients who undergo radiation therapy, use certain feminine hygiene products, or have been using a catheter for a long time are prone to cystitis.
Both men and women are at risk for this condition, though women are at a higher risk. Women who are sexually active, use diaphragms with spermicide, or are pregnant have a higher risk for developing cystitis.
Men who have an enlarged prostate or experience interference with the flow of urine are also at risk. A kidney stone can increase the risk of cystitis, as can immune system changes. The ongoing use of catheters can also be a risk factor for developing this condition.
Signs of cystitis include:
- a strong urge to urinate frequently
- a burning sensation during urination
- passing small, frequent amounts of urine
- low-grade fever and/or chills
- cloudy or strong-smelling urine
- blood in the urine, also known as hematuria
- pelvic area discomfort
- pressure in the lower abdomen
A urine test is not the only way to detect cystitis. In a cystoscopy, a doctor may inspect a person’s bladder with a thin tube that has a camera and light attached. Doctors can use the cystoscope to collect a biopsy if needed.
Imaging tests are not often necessary, but they can be helpful in diagnosing cystitis. An X-ray or ultrasound can help rule out other causes of cystitis, such as a structural cause or tumor.
For interstitial cystitis, a variety of therapies can be used, including medication. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat bacterial cystitis.
Surgery can treat cystitis, but it may not be the doctor’s first choice. It is more common for chronic conditions, or if a structural issue can be repaired.
Home care treatments include medications to relieve symptoms or eliminate the infection. Sitz baths, hydrating the body, and use of heating pads to relieve discomfort are also popular home care solutions.
Other treatments include procedures to manipulate the bladder (such as stretching it with water or gas). Nerve stimulation can lower the frequency of bathroom visits and may relieve pelvic pain. When cystitis is caused by radiation or chemotherapy, it can be treated with medication to flush the bladder.
Generally the outlook for this condition is good so long as the patient reports symptoms to his or her doctor promptly, and treats the condition.
Cranberry juice or pills with proanthocyanidin are commonly thought to reduce the risk, but there are conflicting views on that notion. Doctors do advise patients to avoid cranberry juice if they are on warfarin (Coumadin), a blood-thinning medication.
People with chronic bladder infections should drink plenty of water and urinate frequently as needed. Women should wipe from front to back after a bowel movement to prevent the spread of bacteria from the anal region to the vagina or urethra. Also, take showers instead of baths, and make sure to wash skin gently in the genital area. Women should empty their bladders after sexual intercourse, and drink water. Finally, women should not use feminine products or deodorant sprays that can irritate the area.