Cystitis - symptoms and treatment

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bladder infection. It is very common in women because women have a short urethra where infections can occur (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body). Often an infection can also occur between the urethra and the anus due to their close proximity. Whilst symptoms are unpleasant they usually clear up within a few days.

Often people advise to drink water when suffering cystitis. Although this may help, there is no clear evidence as to why this is. Abstaining from sexual intercourse is recommended until cystitis has cleared up, as this is likely to aggravate the condition.

Over-the-counter painkillers, such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen, may help to reduce the discomfort associated with cystitis. Always read the information leaflet and check with your pharmacist first, particularly if you have another medical condition, you are taking other medicines, or you're pregnant or breast feeding. There is also a range of over the counter medication specifically designed for the treatment of cystitis.
Drinking cranberry juice is not thought to help relieve pain but may help to prevent outbreaks of recurrent cystitis. If symptoms are persistent, a visit to the doctor may be necessary in order to start a course of antibiotics.

Preventing cystitis, or a reoccurrence of the condition, can be achieved by using non-perfumed wash products, wearing underwear made from natural fibres, and not wearing tight garments, as well as cutting back on coffee, fruit juices and spicy foods.

Some people experience ‘honeymoon’ cystitis, ie: cystitis that is triggered by having sex. Keeping the genital area clean and using a lubricant during sex can help. Emptying your bladder as soon as possible after sexual intercourse is likely to help get rid of any unwanted bacteria and prevent recurring infections.

For more information about cystitis you may like to read the following:

Overview of cystitis

Sources used in writing this article are available on request

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Last revised: 19 March 2014
Next review: 19 March 2017