What is cystitis?

It is believed that most women will experience cystitis in their lifetime, often on more than one occasion. It is an extremely common bladder infection that occurs most frequently due to intestinal bacteria. This particular bladder infection more commonly occurs in women than men because the urethra, which is the tube that transports urine out of the body from the bladder, is shorter in women. The location of the opening of the urethra is also in close proximity to the anus, which means it is easy for anal bacteria to infect the bladder.

Cystitis is particularly common in women who are pregnant, sexually active or post-menopausal, though it can occur at any age. It is usually a mild infection that lasts between four to nine days. Painkillers are usually sufficient to alleviate symptoms, but in severe cases antibiotics may be necessary.

What causes cystitis?

Cystitis is caused by an infection of the bladder. The bladder can become infected for a number of reasons. Toilet hygiene is an important factor to bear in mind, as the urethral opening in women is close to the anus, making it easy for anal bacteria to come into contact with the urethra and cause an infection. People who have catheters fitted have an increased risk of developing a bladder infection. Pregnant women are also at a greater risk. Other causes include an increase in sexual activity (known as “honeymoon” cystitis), sexually transmitted diseases, certain parasites and contact dermatitis.

Preventing cystitis

There are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing a bladder infection like cystitis. The most important thing to do is make sure you are drinking plenty of water every day. Cranberry juice is also believed to effectively reduce the risk of recurrent infections and is also available in capsule form. Try to urinate as soon as possible after sex as this will remove any accumulated bacteria from inside the urethra. Urinating frequently – a minimum of once every three hours – is also recommended. If you know you are at a greater risk of cystitis, you should try to avoid vaginal deodorants or other similar products as they could irritate the area and cause a bladder infection.

Cystitis treatments

For mild cases, there is not usually a need for antibiotics. Sufferers will usually be advised to drink plenty of water as this is believed to help flush out bacteria from the bladder. Cranberry juice or capsules are also recommended by some, as is the avoidance of alcohol. You should not have sex until you are sure the infection has cleared, as this can worsen an existing infection. Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can be used to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with the infection. If you are experiencing more severe cystitis, you may need to speak to your doctor who may prescribe a course of antibiotics – please speak to your doctor if you believe this is the course of action for you.

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