Cystitis is a very common urinary tract infection (UTI) that predominantly affects women, but can also be developed by men and children.
The symptoms of cystitis can be perceived as embarrassing, and it can sometimes be particularly difficult to identify the symptoms of cystitis in men.
As a result, many people aren’t as clued up about the causes of cystitis as they could be, and can be confused about how they should treat cystitis in the first instance or handle repeated episodes.
This post explores some of the common and lesser-known causes of cystitis, helping you to be aware of factors that could increase your risk level, and providing advice on how to tackle and treat a suspected case of cystitis.
1) Cystitis is USUALLY caused by bacterial infection…
Cystitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection, but this is not always the case. The UTI develops when bacteria living on the skin or in the bowel makes its way into the urethra, where it multiplies.
This is more easily done in female anatomy where the urethra and anus are positioned more closely together, which is why the condition is traditionally thought of as something that affects only women. When a cystitis diagnosis is confirmed, the usual course of treatment is with antibiotics, however, it’s incredibly important to get first time cases or repeated cases checked out, as cystitis symptoms could be indicative of an underlying non-bacterial cause.
2) …but not ALWAYS!
Sometimes, cystitis is caused by irritation or damage to the bladder, which can occur for a number of reasons. As this is not bacterial it requires different treatment, so it’s best to give your doctor full and frank information about your symptoms, answering any questions they may have to help with your diagnosis.
3) Being sexually active can contribute to cystitis
Cystitis is not a sexually transmitted infection, but being sexually active means you’re more likely to experience friction around the urethra and can mean bacteria is moved around.
You should always ensure you have good lubrication (either natural or a sexual health product) to minimise friction. Using a diaphragm for sex could also make you more likely to develop cystitis, so if you do use a diaphragm then be sure to store it safely and keep it clean.
It’s also crucial to practice good hygiene after sex. It’s recommended that women in particular go to the toilet after sex and empty their bladder completely. If you regularly suffer from cystitis you may be advised to rinse your genitals with water after sex too.
4) Your toilet habits will also impact on your cystitis risk
Even if you’re not sexually active, you should always try to fully empty your bladder when you urinate. Another important toilet habit to form as a woman is to wipe from front to back. This minimises the risk of bacteria spreading from the anus to the urethra.
5) Having cystitis may show that you’re irritated
Using perfumed soaps, shower gels and bubble baths can be an irritant to the genital area, as can wearing tight underwear. In some circumstances, tampon insertion may cause irritation or move bacteria around too.
Those who wear a catheter can also notice irritation or damage when they change it, so it’s important to avoid damage by following best practice instructions from your nurse or doctor carefully.
Treating cystitis symptoms
In the first instance, you can ease the symptoms of cystitis with painkillers. This could be paracetamol or ibuprofen if you’re able to take them. Drinking lots of water could help with making visits to the toilet less painful, and positioning a warm hot water bottle on your lower back may also make you more comfortable.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed by your GP or GUM clinic, you are likely to be prescribed antibiotics if the cause of your symptoms is thought to be bacterial. In order to determine the likely cause of your discomfort, medical professionals may need to ask some probing questions.
Try not to feel embarrassed by this; answer openly and honestly and hopefully you’ll get to the cause of the problem.
If you have been diagnosed with cystitis, you can find treatments to help manage your symptoms in our range of cystitis relief products.
You can also find further advice on treating cystitis symptoms over on our Cystitis Advice Centre page. However, we always recommend that you visit your GP or a GUM clinic to confirm the causes of your symptoms if you are unsure.