Cystitis is a generic term used to describe a variety of infections of the bladder. It can also be used to describe many different infections of the lower urinary tract. Cystitis, also known as a urinary tract infection (UTI), occurs when bacteria enters the bladder through the urethra, adheres to the bladder wall and starts multiplying. At this point, the immune system gets involved, and the body begins to fight off the infection. Although this is typically not a serious illness, if it is untreated and spreads from the bladder to the kidneys, a potentially damaging infection can take control.
Women tend to be more prone to cystitis because of their anatomy. Their urethras, which are the tubes that carry urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, are naturally shorter than men’s. Approximately 20 to 40% of women experience cystitis at some point in their life. The bacterium that most often causes it is E.coli, which is common in the intestines. The condition occurs when this bacteria makes its way up the urethra into the bladder.
Another common cause is urine retention. This occurs in people who have trouble emptying their bladder completely. The urine that sits in the bladder is a breeding ground for bacteria. Hygiene is another factor, and women should always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement to prevent bacteria from the anus from reaching the urethra. Congenital deformities, especially in men, can prevent the complete emptying of the bladder. Children with vesicoureteral reflux also are at risk for retaining urine due to the formation of their urethras.
Catheterization is another common cause of the condition. Frequent changing of a catheter may cause small injuries to the tissue, providing entry points for bacteria. In general, catheters tend to introduce outside bacteria into the urethra on a regular basis.
Men with enlarged prostates can be more prone to the condition, because the prostate interferes with urination. Pregnancy is another factor that increases the risk, as well as frequent sexual activity, some sexually transmitted diseases and parasites. Post-menopausal women, as well as diabetics, are at increased risk as well. Recent studies have shown that certain blood types predispose some women to more frequent bouts of the condition.
Symptoms include painful urination, burning during urination, frequent urges to urinate, bad-smelling urine, cloudy or bloody urine and a slight fever. Your doctor may dip your urine for a rapid test or send off a urine sample to be cultured by a lab. Treatment is usually a course of antibiotics, including amoxicillin and ciprofloxacin. If frequent cystitis is plaguing you, your doctor may refer you to a specialist or perform more diagnostic tests on your urinary tract.
Prevention is simple: lots of fluids, urination after intercourse and urination at least every three hours are all good habits. Cranberry juice has shown many benefits, including preventing cystitis. Taking showers instead of baths, in order to reduce the amount of fluid that makes it up into the urethra, is also a good practice.