Help & Advice

What is Cystitis?

Cystitis is inflammation and/ or infection in the bladder that can affect women and men of any age but is most common in adult women.  Cystitis is not a sexually transmitted infection but it can be triggered by or made worse by sexual intercourse. It is very important for people who are sexually active to have a sexual health screening after each new sexual partner and to be aware of what is normal for them so that they can spot any abnormal symptoms as soon as they arise. Regular use of condoms, good sexual health awareness and not sharing sex toys (such as vibrators and dildos) are good ways to reduce the transmission of any sexual infection.
Cystitis is easily treated with antibiotics but if left untreated can lead to a more severe infection and the possibility of developing ascending UTI (a urinary tract infection that spreads beyond the bladder) and pyelonephritis (a kidney infection).
If a child has symptoms of cystitis they must seek urgent medical attention as children have an increased risk of developing scar tissue and kidney problems in the future.

What are the Symptoms of Cystitis?
The majority of people with cystitis have:

  • A sudden urgency to pass urine
  • A pain or discomfort while passing urine
  • A feeling of not being able to empty the bladder fully
  • A tendency to pass very small volumes of urine at a time
  • A desire to pass urine more frequently

Some people may also have the following symptoms

  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

What are the Causes of Cystitis?

Cystitis is caused by bacteria (that live elsewhere on the body) entering the urethra (tube which transports urine from the bladder to the outside) and multiplying within the bladder. The bacterium that most commonly causes cystitis is Escherichia coli (E. Coli.). E coli is a bacterium that normally lives in the bowel and keeps it healthy. They can be transported to the bladder by accidentally wiping faeces over the urethra or if a person has diarrhoea.

Cystitis is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and cannot be passed on from person to person.

Any condition which results in a reduced ability to empty the bladder, such as pregnancy, benign prostatic hypertrophy (swelling of the prostate which is not cancerous) and prostate cancer can increase the risk of developing cystitis. Poor diet and dehydration make the risk of developing cystitis more likely.
Can Cystitis be passed onto a baby?

Cystitis cannot be passed on to a baby during pregnancy or childbirth. However, if a pregnant woman has cystitis it can make her feel very unwell and that can be associated with a very small increase in pregnancy-related problems such as miscarriage, premature labour and poor growth in the foetus. If you are pregnant and think you may have cystitis you must tell your midwife, GP or Sexual Health Doctor.
How is Cystitis diagnosed?

Cystitis can be diagnosed by testing the urine. The test is very quick and easy to perform. Diagnosing cystitis early is important and minimises the risks of complications developing. Cystitis can be diagnosed at a GUM (Genito Urinary Medicine) clinic or via your GP.
How is Cystitis Treated?

Cystitis is easily treated with a course of the oral antibiotic Trimethoprim. Treatment is highly successful if the antibiotics are taken exactly as instructed. Please note that antibiotics do not protect from future infection. It is possible to become re-infected with cystitis at any point in the future. If this happens you must seek medical attention to confirm re-infection and must take the antibiotics again.
Drinking lots of water, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and sugary drinks or foods can help reduce the severity of the infection and helps lessen the likelihood of developing another infection in the future.
Please note that it is possible to contract more than one infection at any one time.