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What is Cystitis?

Bacterial cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, caused by bacteria entering the bladder via the urethra (the tube through which urine is passed from the bladder).

Bacterial cystitis can affect males and females of any age or race, although it is most commonly found in women. It is said that approximately half of women in the UK will get cystitis at some time in their life

Bacteria is the most common cause of cystitis. Bacteria may be introduced into the urinary system for many reasons. For example:

Hygiene - A common cause in women due to females having a shorter urethra than males, and its situation closer to the back passage (an*s).
Catheters - During catheterisation, trauma (damage) may occur to the urethra or bladder, which may increase the danger of infection.
Pregnancy - Pressure from the uterus may result in incomplete emptying of the bladder, thus encouraging bacteria to grow. In pregnancy, the kidneys need to work harder, due to the larger amount of fluid that they have to cope with. This puts stress on the urinary system, making it easier for infection to take hold.
Prostate - In men, an enlarged prostate prevents the bladder from emptying completely.
Kidney/bladder stones - These prevent the bladder from emptying completely.
Abnormalities in the urinary system - Boys and young men may suffer from repeated infections. These may be due to abnormalities present from birth, which prevent complete emptying of the bladder.
S*xual activities - S*xual intercourse may introduce bacteria to, or cause bruising of, the urethra and bladder.
Irritants - Products such as deodorants and bubble bath may irritate the urethra and bladder, causing cystitis-like symptoms.
Postmenopausal changes - Decreasing hormones in postmenopausal women result in changes within the body. These changes may result in increasing episodes of cystitis.
Diabetes - The urine of diabetics can contain a lot of sugar, encouraging bacteria to grow. The bladder may also be affected by diabetes, preventing it from contracting and therefore not emptying fully, providing a breeding ground for bacteria.
S*xually transmitted diseases (STD) - Infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause symptoms similar to cystitis, particularly when they are present in young, s*xually active men.
Parasites - People who have spent time in North Africa or the Middle East may have been affected by a parasite that produces cystitis like symptoms; however no bacteria will be found in their urine.

Main symptoms include:
Pain when urinating (dysuria)
Frequent need to pass small amounts of urine
Feeling of urgency to pass urine even when the bladder is empty
Cloudy/dark urine, which may have a strong smell
Additional symptoms may include:
Blood in urine (haematuria)
Mild fever and chills
Painful s*xual intercourse
Penile pain
Dull pain in the lower back or abdomen
Generally feeling unwell

How can bacterial cystitis affect an individual's life?

Bacterial cystitis makes passing urine painful. Sleep may also be disturbed due to the pain and discomfort.
Working life may be disturbed. Time off may be required in order for antibiotics to have an effect.
Relationships could be affected, especially with your partner. You may find that an attack of cystitis follows s*xual intercourse, which places a strain on the relationship. You may feel like blaming your partner for the cystitis attack.
Taking antibiotics to cure bacterial cystitis may cause other problems such as candida (thrush).
The type of clothing that you wear, the products you use and the food that you eat may all need to be amended.

If you would like to receive an information pack on BC and the latest treatments available ,send your name and address to

© The Cystitis and Overactive Bladder Foundation 2008
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