What is Cystitis?

Cystitis is a very common condition in women and it is essentially caused by a bacterial infection of the lower urinary tract. Technically speaking, Cystitis is an infection of the bladder but the term is often used to describe any lower urinary tract infection that is characterized by a burning sensation when urine is being passed, along with urgent and frequent urinations.

Can I be treated for Cystitis?

The Online Clinic is prepared to prescribe an antibiotic for Cystitis in advance of need if you have had repeated infections and you would recognise the symptoms were they to recur.

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What Causes Cystitis?


Cystitis is normally caused by bacteria from the intestine getting into the urinary tract. This can happen easily in women because of the structure of the female anatomy. The opening to the female urethra is in close proximity to the female anus. The female urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body) is also shorter than in men, making it easier for bacteria from the outside the body to get into the bladder.

Sexual Activity

Some women find that an increased frequency of sexual activity can instigate a bout of cystitis. It is believed that sexual intercourse can irritate the urethra, making the lower urinary tract more susceptible to a bacterial infection.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Some sexually transmitted infections can have similar symptoms to Cystitis. In men, symptoms that are similar to those of Cystitis should be investigated further for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea.

In women, if the normal symptoms of Cystitis are accompanied by an unusual discharge or if they do not respond to the normal antibiotic treatment then STIs should be investigated. Some women are also susceptible to Bacterial Vaginosis, which has different symptoms from Cystitis and is usually characterized by a fishy odour and unusual discharge. The STI Clinic specializes in postal testing for STIs and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).

What are the Symptoms of Cystitis?

Bacterial infections of the lower urinary tract can sometimes be asymptomatic. Cystitis is generally characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Burning sensation when passing urine
  • Frequent need for urination
  • Cloudy and foul smelling urine
  • Occasional blood in urine
  • A pain above the pubic bone

How can I avoid Cystitis?

There are some common sense tips about how to avoid Cystitis.

  • Drink lots of water to ensure a frequent flushing out of the bladder.
  • Practise good toilet hygiene! Move toilet tissue away from the urethra towards the anus - not the other way round.
  • Drink cranberry juice - this has a substance that makes it more difficult for bacteria to attach to the bladder wall.
  • Make sure that you completely empty your bladder when passing urine by sitting back on the lavatory seat rather than leaning forward.

How is Cystitis Treated?

There are some over the counter remedies available for Cystitis from your local pharmacy. We are prepared to prescribe an antibiotic in advance of need if you complete the appropriate consultation form.

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Reviewed by: Dr Loraine Haslam MBBS, DRCOG, DFSRH, LoC SDI, LoC IUT, MRCGP
GMC registration number: 4524038
Date: 21 September 2022
Next review: 20 September 2024
All UK registered doctors can have their registration checked on
The Medical Register at the GMC website.

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