Infections can occur anywhere in your body and are caused by different kinds of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. They can be passed on in various ways, such as via skin-to-skin contact or from contaminated food. For example, the common cold is a viral infection that’s usually contracted when you come into contact with or inhale the airborne virus that is expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. However, some infections, such as Cystitis, can be caused by the bacteria that already lives in your body.
What is Cystitis?
Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder that’s usually caused by irritation or a bacterial infection, however it can also be caused by certain types of medication, hygiene products and even pregnancy. While it is more common in women, men can also experience Cystitis.
Is Cystitis the same as a UTI?
You may know what a urinary tract infection (UTI) is and how the symptoms manifest themselves, but do you know what Cystitis is or how it differs from other UTIs? Cystitis is a kind of UTI that only affects the bladder, however you can also have a UTI of the urethra (Urethritis) and the kidneys (kidney infection). Therefore, Cystitis is a type of UTI but there are other forms of urinary infections that you can contract too.
What causes Cystitis?
Cystitis is usually caused by a growth of bacteria that turns into a bacterial infection. However, there are other causes, such as if the bladder is irritated for another reason.
Most bacterial infections are thought to occur when bacteria that live in the bowel get into the bladder through the urethra. You can increase the risk of getting Cystitis when you:
● Have sex
● Wipe from back to front after going to the toilet
● Have a urinary catheter
● Use a diaphragm as a form of contraception
To help reduce your chances of contracting Cystitis, you should go for a wee after sexual intercourse and always wipe from front to back after going to the toilet.
There are other things that can increase your risk of getting Cystitis. These include menopause and diabetes.
If you’re going through the menopause, the lining of the urethra can shrink. This could allow more bacteria to pass through which may make you more likely to get an infection. During menopause, the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina changes too, so whereas previously, the ‘good’ bacteria might have been able to fight off the ‘bad’ bacteria, this may no longer be the case.
If you suffer from diabetes, your chances of getting Cystitis are higher because of the increased levels of sugar in your urine. This additional sugar provides a good environment for bacteria to multiply and grow in.
As previously mentioned, Cystitis can also be caused by irritation to the bladder. This irritation can be due to friction from sex, overly scented soaps and bubble bath or damage caused by surgery. To reduce your risk, you could swap to a more natural, soap-free feminine hygiene wash.
What are the symptoms of Cystitis?
Symptoms can vary depending on how severe your infection is. Most common symptoms include:
● Burning or stinging pain when you urinate
● Needing to wee more frequently than normal
● Urine that’s dark and cloudy
● Strong-smelling urine
● Pain in your tummy
● Blood in your urine
Mild Cystitis can clear up on its own and you could try taking paracetamol or ibuprofen for the pain or applying a hot water bottle to your tummy or between your thighs. However, if your symptoms last for longer than three days or are severe, you should see your doctor for advice and potential treatment. Severe symptoms include fever, vomiting and pains in your back. These symptoms could suggest that the infection has moved from your bladder to your kidneys and you should seek immediate treatment.
If you regularly suffer from Cystitis, you should try drinking more water to flush the infection out of your bladder. If you are prescribed antibiotics for the infection, you should finish the course - don’t stop taking them when your symptoms disappear, as some bacteria could remain in the bladder and the infection may return. Avoid having sex until the condition has fully cleared up.
Can Cystitis cause discharge?
Discharge of any colour, smell or texture is not usually a symptom of Cystitis. If you’re experiencing thick, white discharge, you could have Thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection that can be treated with antifungal medication. Thrush can sometimes be confused with Cystitis as it can also cause a stinging or burning sensation, particularly during sex or when you go for a wee.
If you think you have Thrush, you should speak to your doctor about your symptoms and potential treatment.