The lowdown on cystitis


Defined by the National Health Service (NHS) as an inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bladder infection, merely mentioning the C word can send shivers through women and men, who can also get it, but do so less frequently.

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Cystitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection, when bacteria makes its way into the urethra. Common causes are through sex, tight underwear or trousers that rub, wiping the wrong way after going to the toilet, using a tampon on a diaphragm, and not emptying your bladder fully after urinating. Diabetes patients may also find they suffer more due to high levels of sugar in the urine and women going through the menopause are at risk too as the lining of the urethra can shrink and become thinner because of a lack of the hormone oestrogen.

Cystitis can also be caused by damage or irritation to the urethra and bladder and has been linked to the recreational use of the drug ketamine.


  • Getting cystitis for the very first time can be a frightening experience, but knowing the tell-tale signs should help to ease your worry. Look out for:
  • A strong, persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Passing cloudy or strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic and lower back discomfort
  • Low-grade fever

If you catch your cystitis quick enough you can probably treat it with over the counter medication, but if you notice blood in your urine contact your doctor as you may need antibiotics. Also if you get it for the first time, it’s also advisable to seek medical help.

Ways to ease your discomfort

Drinking plenty of water generally can help keep cystitis at bay, but chugging down more H2O when an attack happens is also vital. It can also help if you add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to water to stop urine from becoming so acidic. Avoid coffee and alcohol during a flare up.

  • Sit in a warm bath

    Try and take your mind off of the pain. Watching TV may not fully distract you but playing word and number puzzles should get your brain to start to forget about wanting to go to the toilet.

  • Avoid having sex

    Hold a hot water bottle on your tummy, lower back or between your legs.

  • Pharmacy and supermarkets sell cystitis relief sachets that mix with water. They get working in a matter of hours.

How to avoid cystitis

Women are more prone to cystitis as their urethra is much shorter and closer to their anus. Always make sure you wipe front to back to stop bacteria being spreading this way.

  • Wash before sex
  • Pass urine after you have sex to wash out any bacteria which may have entered the urethra.
  • Empty your bladder fully when going toilet.
  • Avoid tight jeans that can rub and wear cotton underwear.

Some people swear by cranberry tablets as a way to prevent recurrent attacks. Capsules are more effective than cranberry juice, which isn’t as concentrated and contains high levels of sugar.

© Cover Media

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