Cystitis is a common complaint that refers to inflammation of the bladder, specifically, inflammation of the wall of the bladder. Cystitis usually occurs when the urethra and bladder, which are normally sterile (microbe free) become infected by bacteria - the area becomes irritated and inflamed.
Cystitis is a fairly common lower urinary tract infection, which affects people of both sexes and all ages. It is more common among females than males. The first symptom of cystitis is an itching or a pricking sensation in the urethra (the tube down which urine comes). The desire to pass urine becomes frequent (a few painful drops may be all that passes when you attempt to urinate), throughout day and night. Pain occurs on passing urine, which may be cloudy or strong smelling.
When urination does take place it will only be in minute amounts, but it will be accompanied by very severe pain. Traces of blood may also be present in the urine, and there may be pain in the lower abdomen and a general feeling of being unwell.
What causes cystitis?
- When women insert a tampon there is a slight risk of bacteria entering via the urethra.
- When a urinary catheter is changed there may be damage to the area.
- The patient does not empty his/her bladder completely, creating an environment for bacteria to multiply in the bladder. This is fairly common among pregnant women, and also men whose prostates are enlarged.
- Sexually active women have a higher risk of bacteria entering via the urethra.
- Part of the urinary system may be blocked.
- Other bladder or kidney problems.
- Frequent and/or vigorous sex increases the chances of physical damage or bruising, which in turn makes the likelihood of cystitis developing higher.
- During the menopause women produce less mucus in the vaginal area. This mucus stops the bacteria from multiplying. Women on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) have a lower risk of developing cystitis compared to menopausal women not on HRT.
- During the menopause the lining of a woman's urethra gets thinner as her levels of estrogen drop. The thinner the lining becomes, the higher the chances are of infection and damage.
- A woman's urethra opening is much nearer the anus than a man's. Consequently, there is a higher risk of bacteria entering the urethra from the anus.