Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder caused by either a bacterial or viral infection. There is a high incidence of cystitis, and it is in fact the second most common complaint after respiratory infections in terms of frequency. Cystitis is also referred to as a bladder infection or as a UTI. Cystitis can occur in men and children but is most common among women. This can be attributed to a shorter urethra in women making it easier for infections to enter the body from the outside. Nearly 20 percent of women have suffered from at least one UTI episode in their lives. Once infected, nearly 80 percent complain of recurring infection.
If cystitis is not treated in time, the infection can spread to the kidneys, posing a serious health risk. When this happens it is known as an Ascending UTI.
Symptoms of Cystitis
Common cystitis symptoms to look out for include:
- A constant need to urinate
- Urinating frequently
- Passing small amounts of urine at a time
- A burning painful sensation while urinating
- Urine that is dark, cloudy, or strong smelling
- Urine that has blood in it
- Pain in the pelvic region
- Pressure in the lower abdominal area
- In children bed-wetting may be a sign of an UTI. If bed-wetting occurs during the night and day and at least once a week, it may be associated with cystitis
- Children may also suffer from general fatigue and weakness if they have contracted a UTI
- Infants with UTIs tend to lose their appetite and may suffer from diarrhea or vomiting
- In the elderly, cystitis may also be accompanied by lethargy, confusion, fatigue, and fever
- In case you suffer from chills, high fever, nausea, vomiting, and acute pain in the back or the sides, call your doctor immediately
- Speak to your doctor if this is a recurring infection, if you have finished your course of antibiotics and got no relief, or you have been diagnosed with cystitis in the past
The symptoms of cystitis are very similar to a number of other conditions. For example, infections such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and thrush, or prostatitis and urethritis all have the same symptoms as cystitis. To make sure of the correct diagnosis and treatment, visit your doctor at the earliest.
Your doctor will conduct a general physical exam and order a urine test to determine the nature of the infection. Depending on the strain of bacteria that is responsible for the infection, a correct course of antibiotics or treatment can be prescribed.
Causes of Cystitis
Cystitis is caused by bacterial infections, but there are various factors that could cause the infection to set in or increase your risk of developing one:
- Different types of bacteria largely cause cystitis, the most common being the Escherichia coli strain of bacteria. This type of bacteria causes nearly 90 percent of all cystitis cases. A cystitis infection can occur at any exit point for urine from the body and since bacteria normally breed in moist places that are also warm, the area in, and around the opening of the urethra is the most common point of infection. In some cases, bacterial infections could result due to sexual intercourse when the bacteria are pushed into the urethra and bladder. This is why very often cystitis is also referred to as honeymoon cystitis.
- Bacterial urinary tract infections can be hospital acquired or community acquired. Hospital acquired bladder infections occur in people who are in a medical care setting such as a clinic or hospital. Bladder infections could occur here due to the use of catheters. Community acquired bladder infections happen to people who are not in a medical care facility setting.
- Some people (especially women) are more susceptible to UTIs than others. Experts suggest that genetics may play a role in this as it has been discovered that women who have been born with certain antigens contract infections such as cystitis more easily.
- Contraceptive devices such as the diaphragm can cause infections if theyve been fitted improperly. If the diaphragm is the wrong size for example, if its too big, it can restrict the normal flow of urine and prevent the bladder from emptying completely. When this happens, bacteria tend to breed and infections occur.
- Prostate problems in men can also increase the chances of contracting cystitis.
- Poor hygiene habits, tight clothes, and underwear made of synthetic fabric can all lead to frequent UTIs.
- Some people believe that diet can increase or decrease your chance of catching a bladder infection. While there is no conclusive proof, consuming too much of caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, acidic foods, and citric juice can encourage cystitis.
Besides bacterial infections, there are other non-infectious factors that may lead to cystitis such as:
- Interstitial cystitis the cause of the bladder infection in such cases is not known. It is a very painful form of cystitis and mostly afflicts women.
- Chemicals chemicals found in products such as contraceptive jellies or personal hygiene sprays could also cause a UTI to develop.
- Drugs cystitis can be caused by certain medications, especially drugs used for chemotherapy.
- Radiation Radiation treatment for cancers can also increase the risk of cystitis and cause inflammation of the bladder tissue.
- Other conditions cystitis can be common in people suffering from conditions such as PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), Crohns disease, lupus, cancers of the uterus or ovaries, tuberculosis, and endometriosis.
Cystitis, an inflammation of the bladder, commonly affects women. Feeling as though you are “weeing razor blades” is a sign you could be suffering from cystitis. Other symptoms include urgency to urinate, lower stomach pain, cloudy or slightly smelly urine.
The bladder is a sac that collects urine from the kidneys. The urine travels down to the bladder via tubes called ureters and exits the bladder via the urethra.
In what could be considered a design flaw (the only one I can think of), the female urethra is close to the vagina and anus. Cystitis is often caused by this architectural glitch. A wipe in the wrong direction can be all it takes to transport trouble, which usually takes the form of a bacteria called E.coli. Other triggers include pantyhose, synthetic underwear and G-strings.
Avoid scented soap, bubble bath and deodorant sprays.These will only make things worse. Instead, shower after exercise and before and after intercourse.
Drink diluted cranberry juice. One or two glasses a day can ease symptoms and prevent recurrence.
Research shows a compound in the berries prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall.
Drink three litres of fluid to flush out the bugs.
Barley water is a traditional remedy for cystitis. Boil one litre of water with one handful of pearl barley. Simmer to reduce it down to about 500ml. Drink when cool.
Add Manuka honey and lemon juice for taste.
Ban sugar. Bacteria love sugar and it lowers immunity.
Remedies for Cystitis
Cystitis treatment depends on the cause of the infection. If a bacterial infection has caused the UTI, chances are your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat the problem. If you suffer from recurring cystitis infections, you still have to check with your doctor about the medications and dosage. This is because a bodys sensitivity to antibiotics tends to change over time and your doctor will be in the best position to prescribe the correct treatment for your case. Women generally respond well to a three-day antibiotic course. Children often require a ten-day course and men suffering from prostate problems a seven or ten-day course.
Apart from medication there are several home remedies for cystitis that you can try out. While many of these home remedies are touted as being completely effective, you should keep in mind that not all of them have been subjected to the rigorous testing applied to conventional medications, and many of the claims are not backed by evidence. This said, some natural treatments have been found to exercise beneficial effects and are even encouraged by health care providers. Consult with your doctor if you do wish to try any of these home remedies:
- Spinach juice mixed with equal quantities of coconut water and drunk up to two times a day is an excellent diuretic. Encouraging frequent urination, this helps flush out the infection naturally and could hasten recovery.
- A juice made of radish leaves drunk daily first thing in the morning can reduce painful symptoms of cystitis and treat the infection.
- Another good cystitis home treatment is boiling okra in water and having this concoction twice a day.
- An excellent cystitis cure is fresh cucumber juice. Cucumber juice mixed with a teaspoon of honey acts as a diuretic and should be drunk thrice a day for at least two weeks for the best results.
- Lemon is an effective and natural remedy for cystitis. One teaspoon of lemon juice boiled with 200ml of water should be allowed to cool before having a teaspoon at a time every two hours. Lemon juice reduces pain and burning during urination. In case minor bleeding occurs with cystitis, lemon juice can treat this as well.
- Sandalwood oil mixed with ginger should be taken in small quantities. You can begin with five drops of this mixture and then increase it to ten drops at a time once you are sure there are no adverse reactions. Pure essential sandalwood oil is a potent cure for cystitis.
Diet for Cystitis
While suffering from an attack of cystitis, it would be better to avoid solid food and up your intake of fluids instead. Drink at least 2 liters of water daily and increase your intake of foods like juices, soups, and coconut water. Solid foods are best avoided if there is a fever.
Raw vegetable juices such as cucumber juice and carrot juice (mixed with equal quantities of water) can be had every three hours. This should continue for three days at a time. After the three days of only juices, you can start an all-fruit diet for the next few days. Once the all-fruit diet is over, gradually introduce foods such as grains, nuts, vegetables and seeds into your diet. Make sure you avoid too much salt and starch in your meals.
Suggestion for Cystitis
Following are some simple ways to prevent cystitis:
- Maintain proper hygiene. Keep the area of the vagina and urethra clean and dry at all times and always wipe from front to back to prevent infections from being pushed into the urinary tract.
- During menstruation, tampons are a better alternative than sanitary pads. Sanitary pads can collect bacteria and keep the area moist and warm thus encouraging infections. Just make sure tampons are changes regularly as well.
- Wear underwear that is made of cotton and a breathable fabric. This ensures that there is circulation of air and bacteria growth is discouraged.
- Tight clothes or clothes made of synthetic material should not be worn for too long. Wearing a wet swimsuit can also cause an UTI.
- Avoid douching and excessive washing as this hampers the natural balance in the vaginal area.
- Urinate before and after sexual intercourse.
- Drink plenty of fluids to encourage regular urination and never hold in the urge to urinate.
- Gupta K, Hooton TM, Naber KG, Wullt B, Colgan R, Miller LG, et al. International clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of acute uncomplicated cystitis and pyelonephritis in women: A 2010 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the European Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Clin Infect Dis. 2011 Mar;52(5):e103-20.