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Table of contents
OverviewWhat is Cystitis?Causes of CystitisSymptoms of CystitisDiagnosis of CystitisHome remedies for CystitisPreventing CystitisCystitis in specific populationsComplications of CystitisFrequently Asked Questions for CystitisConclusionSources
Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Medically reviewed by Navin Khosla, BPharm and written by Rajive Patel, BPharm - Updated on 26 Jan 2024
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Cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder, is a common urinary tract infection (UTI) that primarily affects women. While cystitis often resolves on its own, it can be uncomfortable and may require medical intervention in some cases. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cystitis.

What is Cystitis?

Cystitis refers to the inflammation of the bladder, a condition commonly caused by a bladder infection. It is characterized by swelling, pain, and discomfort in the bladder, often accompanied by changes in urination. While cystitis can occur in both men and women, it is more prevalent in women due to anatomical factors.

Causes of Cystitis

Cystitis can arise from various causes, including a weakened immune system, bacterial infections, drug reactions, changes in hormones after menopause, radiation therapy, foreign bodies, and chemical irritants. Understanding the underlying cause is essential for effective treatment and prevention strategies.

Bacterial Cystitis

Bacterial cystitis is the most common cause of cystitis and occurs when bacteria, usually Escherichia coli (E. coli), enter the bladder through the urethra. Sexual activity, poor hygiene practices, and certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing bacterial cystitis.

Drug-induced Cystitis

Certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause inflammation of the bladder as a side effect. These drugs can irritate the bladder lining, leading to drug-induced cystitis.

Radiation Cystitis

Radiation therapy, commonly used in cancer treatment, can cause inflammation and damage to the bladder tissues. This condition, known as radiation cystitis, can result in bladder inflammation and subsequent symptoms.

Foreign body Cystitis

The prolonged use of urinary catheters or other endoscopic instruments can introduce bacteria into the bladder, leading to an infection and subsequent inflammation known as foreign body cystitis.

Chemical Cystitis

Chemicals found in personal hygiene products, such as bubble baths, certain types of contraception such as spermicides, and douches, can irritate the bladder and cause inflammation, resulting in chemical cystitis.

Cystitis associated with other conditions

Cystitis can also occur as a complication or symptom of underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney stones, an enlarged prostate, or spinal cord injury. Treating the underlying condition is crucial in managing cystitis in these cases.

Symptoms of Cystitis

The symptoms of cystitis can vary depending on the individual and the underlying cause. However, common symptoms include pain or discomfort during urination, increased frequency and urgency to urinate, changes in urine color and odor, and lower abdominal pain.

Pain and discomfort

One of the primary symptoms of cystitis is pain, burning, or stinging sensation during urination. This discomfort is caused by the inflammation of the bladder lining.

Changes in urination

Cystitis can cause changes in urination patterns, including increased frequency and urgency to urinate, as well as incontinence. Some individuals may experience difficulty fully emptying the bladder, leading to persistent feelings of needing to urinate.

Urine characteristics

The appearance and characteristics of urine can provide valuable insights into the presence of cystitis. Dark, cloudy, or strong-smelling urine may indicate an infection or inflammation in the bladder.

Additional symptoms in young children

Children with cystitis may exhibit additional symptoms, including a fever, irritability, reduced appetite, and vomiting. In contrast, bed-wetting is not typically associated with cystitis but may be a sign of a urinary tract infection.

Diagnosis of Cystitis

To diagnose cystitis, a healthcare provider will typically perform a medical assessment, including a review of symptoms and medical history. Diagnostic tests such as urine analysis and imaging techniques may be employed to confirm the presence of cystitis and identify any underlying causes. Be aware, inflammation of the prostate gland in men, can also cause symptoms similar to cystitis.

Medical assessment

A comprehensive medical assessment is crucial in diagnosing cystitis. Your healthcare provider will inquire about your symptoms, medical history, and any relevant risk factors to determine the likelihood of cystitis.

Urine analysis

A urine analysis is a common diagnostic test for cystitis. It involves providing a urine sample that is examined for the presence of bacteria, blood, or other abnormalities. In some cases, a urine culture may be performed to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection.

Imaging techniques

In certain situations, imaging techniques such as X-rays or ultrasounds may be used to assess the bladder and urinary tract. These tests help identify any structural abnormalities or underlying conditions that may contribute to cystitis.

Treatment of Cystitis

The treatment approach for cystitis depends on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms. Bacterial cystitis is typically treated with antibiotics, while other types of cystitis may require specific management strategies.

Antibiotics for Bacterial Cystitis

Bacterial cystitis is commonly treated with antibiotics to eliminate the infection. The specific antibiotic prescribed will depend on factors such as the type of bacteria involved, the severity of symptoms, and any underlying health conditions. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Management of Interstitial Cystitis (Bladder pain syndrome)

Interstitial cystitis, a chronic form of cystitis, requires a multidisciplinary approach to manage symptoms. Treatment options may include medications to alleviate pain and inflammation, bladder instillations to deliver medication directly into the bladder, and lifestyle modifications to minimize triggers.

Treatment for Non-infectious Cystitis

Noninfectious cystitis, such as drug-induced or chemical cystitis, requires addressing the underlying cause. This may involve discontinuing the medication or avoiding irritants that trigger inflammation. Pain management strategies may also be employed to alleviate discomfort.

Home remedies for Cystitis

In addition to medical treatment, certain self-care measures and home remedies can help alleviate symptoms and promote healing. These include pain relief, hydration, and lifestyle modifications.

Self-care measures

When experiencing symptoms of cystitis, self-care measures can provide relief. These may include applying a heating pad to the lower abdomen, practicing good hygiene, and avoiding irritants such as scented soaps or bubble baths.

Pain relief

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help alleviate pain and discomfort associated with cystitis. Also, over-the-counter remedies that reduce urine acidity (such as potassium citrate) may be used. The effectiveness of these remedies is however unclear. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare professional if symptoms persist or worsen.


Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. This is essential to flush out bacteria and promote bladder health. Avoiding caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and acidic drinks can help minimize bladder irritation.

Preventing Cystitis

Prevention plays a crucial role in managing cystitis and reducing the risk of recurrent infections. By adopting certain lifestyle habits and practicing good hygiene, individuals can minimize the likelihood of developing cystitis.

Hygiene practices

Maintaining good hygiene practices is essential in preventing cystitis. This includes wiping from front to back after using the toilet, avoiding irritants in personal care products, and practicing safe sexual habits.

Urination habits

Promoting healthy urination habits can help prevent cystitis. Emptying the bladder fully, urinating after sexual activity, and avoiding holding urine for prolonged periods can minimize the risk of infection.

Lifestyle modifications

Engaging in certain lifestyle modifications can contribute to bladder health and reduce the chances of cystitis. These include staying well-hydrated, wearing breathable underwear, and avoiding tight-fitting clothing.

Cystitis in specific populations

Cystitis can affect different populations in unique ways. Understanding the specific considerations for men, children, and older adults is important in diagnosing and managing cystitis effectively.

Cystitis in men

While cystitis is more common in women, it can also occur in men. In men, cystitis is often associated with underlying conditions such as an enlarged prostate or urinary tract abnormalities.

Cystitis in children

Cystitis can occur in children, although it may present differently than in adults. Children may experience symptoms such as fever, irritability, and changes in appetite. Prompt medical attention is crucial to prevent complications.

Cystitis in older adults

Cystitis in older adults can be more challenging to diagnose and manage due to age-related changes and underlying health conditions. In this population, cystitis may be associated with cognitive impairment or the use of urinary catheters.

Complications of Cystitis

While cystitis is generally not a serious condition, untreated or recurrent infections can lead to complications. Understanding the potential complications, such as kidney infections and hematuria, is important for prompt medical intervention.

Kidney infection

If left untreated, cystitis can progress to a kidney infection, also known as pyelonephritis. Kidney infections can be more severe and may require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics.


Hematuria, the presence of blood in the urine, can occur in cystitis. While it is often harmless and resolves on its own, persistent or severe hematuria may warrant further investigation.

Frequently Asked Questions for Cystitis

Is Cystitis contagious?

No, cystitis is not contagious. Although it is an infection, it cannot be transmitted to others. However, it is essential to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of bacteria and reduce the risk of recurrent infections.

How is Cystitis Diagnosed?

Diagnosing cystitis usually involves a combination of symptoms, medical history, and physical examination. There is no specific test for cystitis, so doctors rely on ruling out other possible conditions that may cause similar symptoms. In some cases, a urinalysis test may be performed, which involves analyzing a urine sample for the presence of infection markers. If further investigation is required, additional tests such as a cystoscopy or bladder biopsy may be conducted.

How is Cystitis treated?

Treatment for cystitis depends on the severity of symptoms and the underlying cause. In some instances, cystitis may resolve on its own without medical intervention. However, if symptoms are severe or worsening, antibiotics are usually prescribed to eliminate the bacterial infection. Nitrofurantoin and trimethoprim are commonly used antibiotics for cystitis treatment, but other options may be considered based on individual circumstances. Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can also be taken to alleviate discomfort.

Can I diagnose Cystitis myself at home?

While it is possible to purchase urinalysis test kits for home use, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. Self-diagnosis may lead to incorrect assumptions and delay in receiving appropriate treatment.

How soon will I feel better after starting antibiotic treatment?

Symptoms of cystitis should start to improve within a day or two of starting antibiotic treatment, and sometimes even within a few hours. However, it is important to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your healthcare provider to ensure the complete eradication of the infection.

How can I relieve the pain?

To alleviate the pain associated with cystitis, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. It is important to follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult your healthcare provider if the pain persists or worsens.

What if antibiotics don’t provide relief?

In some cases, certain bacteria causing the infection may be resistant to the prescribed antibiotics, leading to a lack of improvement in symptoms. If you do not experience any relief within 48 hours of starting antibiotic treatment, it is advisable to consult your healthcare provider for a reevaluation. They may recommend alternative antibiotics based on the results of a urine test culture.

Can I drink alcohol while on Cystitis antibiotics?

In general, it is safe to consume alcohol while taking antibiotics for cystitis. However, it is important to note that alcohol consumption may make you feel more unwell while your body is fighting the infection. It is also worth mentioning that specific antibiotics, such as metronidazole or tinidazole, can cause adverse reactions when combined with alcohol. Therefore, it is always best to consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist for personalized advice.

Why do I get vaginal thrush when taking antibiotics?

Vaginal thrush, or candidiasis, is a common yeast infection that can occur when the balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted. Antibiotics can eliminate the beneficial bacteria that normally keep the yeast in check, allowing the yeast to multiply and cause an infection. If you experience vaginal thrush while taking antibiotics for cystitis, it is advisable to seek medical advice for appropriate treatment options.

How can I treat vaginal thrush?

Treatment for vaginal thrush typically involves antifungal medications such as clotrimazole or miconazole, which are available as creams or pessaries. These medications help to eliminate the yeast and relieve symptoms. Probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria, may also be recommended to restore the natural balance of microbes in the vagina. It is important to follow the recommended treatment regimen and consult a healthcare provider if symptoms persist or worsen.

What is the role of cranberry juice in Cystitis?

Cranberry juice has often been associated with the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections, including cystitis. While there is limited scientific evidence to support its effectiveness, some studies suggest that cranberry products may help prevent recurrent urinary tract infections. Drinking plenty of water is also recommended as it helps flush bacteria out of the bladder. However, it is important to note that individual responses to cranberry juice may vary, and it is advisable to consult a healthcare provider for personalized recommendations.


In conclusion, cystitis is a common urinary tract infection that primarily affects women. While it can be uncomfortable, proper diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies can effectively manage cystitis. It is essential to seek medical advice for prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment to prevent complications and ensure optimal bladder health.


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