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Cystitis, also known as a bladder infection or Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), is the inflammation of the urethra and bladder commonly caused by bacterial infections. Urinary tract is normally free of harmful bacteria because of the frequent flushing out of urine that prevents them from colonising it. However, dehydration or blocks in the urinary tract may disrupt this self-cleaning mechanism.
How do you know you have cystitis?
Typical symptoms include frequent urge to urinate, as well as pain or burning sensation while passing urine. You may even wake up many times during the night, even though the very little quantity of urine is passed each time. It is important to see your GP if cystitis symptoms include fever, or pain in the pelvic or lower back area as this may means your infection is more severe. You may notice cloudiness or discoloration of urine, accompanied by a strong odour.
People who have recurrent cystitis may recognize the condition immediately from the symptoms, but when you have it for the first time, it can be confusing. A dipstick test of midstream urine is sufficient to diagnose cystitis, but your doctor may want to rule out sexually transmitted diseases with similar symptoms and investigate probable causes like kidney stones, tumours, and, prostate enlargement in men.
What makes you prone to cystitis?
The transmission of bacteria, especially Escherichia coli, from the gastrointestinal tract is the most common reason for cystitis. Contamination may happen with back-to-front wiping. Women are more prone to cystitis because of the proximity of their urethral opening to the anus. Vaginal bacteria also can cause cystitis; hence it is most common in sexually active women, especially if they use diaphragm. Bruising of the bladder or urethra due to catheterisation or during sex can lead to infection. Lack of mucus secretion and thinning of the urethral lining are additional reasons in post-menopausal women.
Incomplete emptying of the bladder, during pregnancy or due to prolapsed uterus or bladder, promotes microbial growth. In men, enlargement of prostate gland has the same effect. Homosexuality too increases the risk of recurrent cystitis. Cystitis is less common in children, but when it occurs, investigating the underlying reason is very important.
Taking painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen to relieve pain and inflammation, and drinking plenty of water, may be sufficient to clear up most cases of cystitis. Using a treatment containing sodium- or potassium citrate such as Cymalon or Cystopurin will help to neutralise acidic urine and make urination more comfortable whilst your infection clears up.
Your doctor may prescribe a short course of antibiotics if the condition persists. To avoid the risk of infection spreading to the kidneys, antibiotics are immediately initiated in people with diabetes and immune deficiencies. Urine sample collected directly from the bladder is cultured to identify the bacteria causing the infection; it helps the doctor prescribe specific antibiotics. The cause of cystitis in children and men is thoroughly investigated and promptly treated to avoid complications.
Drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements regularly is said to promote urinary tract health, and prevent the bacteria from latching onto the bladder wall.
Other precautions to prevent recurrence:
• Drink plenty of water.
• Empty the bladder frequently.
• Wipe the genital area front-to-back only.
• Urinate immediately after intercourse and wash the area thoroughly.
• Avoid anti-microbial soaps that kill friendly bacteria.
• Wear loose, cotton underwear.
• Change catheters carefully.