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Cystitis

3-minute read

What is cystitis?

Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder. It is most common in women but can also affect men and children.

If you think you or your child may have cystitis, it's important to see a doctor, as it can lead to serious kidney problems if left untreated.

What causes cystitis?

Often, that is due to a bacterial infection. This is known as a urinary tract infection or UTI.

It can happen any time and it can also be caused by sexual intercourse. The bacteria involved is usually E. Coli, which lives in the bowel.

Cystitis can also be caused by:

What are the symptoms of cystitis?

The main symptoms of cystitis are:

  • a strong, persistent urge to urinate
  • feeling pain or burning when urinating
  • needing to urinate often
  • passing only small amounts of urine each time
  • a dull ache in the lower abdomen
  • urine that smells, or looks cloudy or bloody
  • pain above the pubic bone
  • fever

Signs a child may have cystitis include a low fever, being irritable, wetting themselves when they were previously dry, or feeding problems in babies.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the urinary problems Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

How is cystitis diagnosed?

To diagnose cystitis, your doctor may ask for a urine sample. This test can also help find out which antibiotic is best for treatment.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

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 antibiotics, rest and drinking plenty of water. Other things you can do to help relieve the symptoms of cystitis are:

  • 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 on your back or abdomen
  • taking painkillers such as paracetamol, if you are in pain

Can cystitis be prevented?

Things that may help prevent getting cystitis include:

  • drinking lots of water
  • urinating as soon as you feel the need
  • urinating straight after sex
  • showering at least daily
  • wearing cotton underpants (not nylon)
  • making sure you always wipe yourself from front to back after urinating (for women)

Cystitis complications

It’s important to see a doctor if you think you may have cystitis. If not treated, it can lead to kidney infection. This can cause fever, back pain and vomiting.

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Last reviewed: March 2020


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