Most women will experience cystitis at some stage. It is an extremely common bladder infection that occurs most frequently due to intestinal bacteria.

Disclaimer: This guide is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

If you are experiencing an emergency, go to your nearest hospital or call 000.

What is it?

Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder typically caused by the bacterium E. coli and is the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), especially in women. This condition occurs when bacteria travel up the urethra, infect the urine, and inflame the bladder lining.

Cystitis can be either acute or interstitial. Acute cystitis is a case of cystitis that occurs suddenly. Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic or long-term case of cystitis that affects multiple layers of bladder tissue.

Risk factors include:

  • Sexual activity
  • Use of spermicide-coated condoms or diaphragms
  • Menopause
  • Urinary catheters
  • Weakened immune system (e.g. diabetes, HIV, cancer treatment or exposure to radiation)
  • Conditions preventing full bladder emptying (e.g. bladder or kidney stones, enlarged prostate)
  • Pregnancy
  • Age (under one or over 75)

Although cystitis is more prevalent in sexually active women, pregnant women, and those with undiagnosed diabetes or post-menopause, it can affect men and children as well.

Cystitis is contagious and cannot be transmitted to a partner during sex.

Cystitis, though painful and bothersome, is usually treatable. However, it can become serious if the infection reaches the kidneys, causing fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. If you suspect cystitis, consult a doctor for proper treatment to prevent it from escalating into a more severe infection.


To prevent recurring cystitis, it’s recommended to stay well-hydrated and urinate as soon as you feel the need, ensuring your bladder is fully emptied each time. Practice good hygiene by wiping from front to back (for females), and wash and dry yourself before and after sex, making sure to urinate immediately afterward. Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear and avoid tight or synthetic garments. Refrain from using vaginal deodorants, strong soaps, bubble baths, and spermicides, and opt for water-based lubricants during sex. Showers are preferable to baths. If cystitis persists, speak with a doctor.


Cystitis can present a range of symptoms, from mild to severe. Common indicators include:

  • a persistent need to urinate, often yielding only small amounts, and a burning or stinging sensation during urination. Urine may have a strong odor, appear cloudy, or contain blood.
  • discomfort in the lower abdomen or above the pubic bone,
  • and sometimes fever.

In children, look for signs such as high fever, irritability, bedwetting, reduced appetite, and vomiting.

It’s important to see your doctor if symptoms last more than three days, if you frequently experience cystitis, if you are pregnant, or if your child has symptoms.

Immediate medical attention is needed for symptoms like blood or pus in the urine, vaginal discharge, fever, chills, nausea, back pain, or suspected kidney infection.

Additionally, symptoms similar to cystitis could be due to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like chlamydia, so seeking medical advice is recommended.

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