What is cystitis?
Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder. It is most common in adult females but can also affect adult males and children.
If you think you or your child may have cystitis, it's important to see a doctor. Cystitis can lead to serious illness if it is not treated.
What are the symptoms of cystitis?
The main symptoms of cystitis are:
- a strong, persistent urge to urinate (wee)
- feeling pain or burning when urinating
- needing to urinate often
- passing only small amounts of urine each time
- a dull ache or pain in your lower abdomen (belly)
- urine that smells, or looks cloudy or bloody
- pain above your pubic bone
Signs that your child may have cystitis include:
- having a high temperature
- being irritable
- wetting themselves when they were previously toilet trained
- reduced appetite
- being sick
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What causes cystitis?
Cystitis is often caused by a bacterial infection. This is known as a urinary tract infection or UTI.
Cystitis is usually caused by bacteria getting into the urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body). It can happen any time and it can also be caused by having sex. The bacteria involved is usually Escherichia coli (E. Coli) which live in your bowel.
Cystitis can also be caused by:
- wiping your bottom from back to front after going to the toilet
- some medicines
- some chemicals found in bubble baths and spermicides
- some conditions like kidney stones and diabetes
- trouble weeing
- prostate problems
- urinary catheters
- radiation therapy
When should I see my doctor?
You should see your doctor if:
- you think you have cystitis and the symptoms have not gone away after 3 days
- you get cystitis symptoms frequently
- you have symptoms of cystitis and you are pregnant
- your child has symptoms of cystitis
How is cystitis diagnosed?
To diagnose cystitis, your doctor may ask for a urine sample
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ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.
How is cystitis treated?
Treatment for cystitis usually includes a prescribed course of antibiotics from your doctor.
You should also rest and drink plenty of water.
As well as treatment prescribed by your doctor, there are some extra things that may help relieve the symptoms of cystitis. These include:
- adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to a glass of water and drinking it
- taking a urinary alkaliser available over the counter from your pharmacy
- having a warm bath, lying in a warm bed, or applying a hot water bottle or wheat bag to your back or abdomen
- taking pain-relief medicines, such as paracetamol, if you are in pain
Can cystitis be prevented?
Things that may help prevent you from getting cystitis include:
- drinking lots of water
- urinating as soon as you feel the need
- making sure you empty your bladder completely each time you urinate
- making sure you always wipe yourself from front to back after urinating (for females)
- wearing cotton underpants (not nylon)
- showering at least daily
- urinating straight after sex
Complications of cystitis
It’s important to see your doctor if you think you may have cystitis. If not treated, cystitis can lead to kidney infection. This can cause fever, back pain and vomiting.
Rarely, cystitis can lead to sepsis — a life-threatening condition that needs immediate treatment.
Resources and support
To get more information about cystitis, speak to your doctor and pharmacist, or call Kidney Health Australia on 1800 454 363.
You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222. A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: July 2022