Cystitis - Causes

Why does it keep recurring in some people?


Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a common infection of the lower urinary tract. The lower urinary tract comprises the bladder, the urethra (the tube from the bladder which carries urine out), the kidneys, and ureters, which connect the kidneys to the bladder.

The infection is caused either by bacteria entering the bladder through the urethra or by the naturally occurring bacteria in the body becoming imbalanced.

Cystitis is more common in women as their urethra is shorter than that of a man, so bacteria can travel up more easily. It is particularly common in women that are sexually active or pregnant, but can also occur in men and children.

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Symptoms of cystitis

  • Desperate and frequent urges to urinate but only passing small amounts of urine
  • Pain, burning or stinging during urination
  • Traces of blood in the urine
  • Pain above the pubic area in the lower back or the abdomen
  • Dark, cloudy or pungent urine
  • A feeling of malaise, weakness or fever
  • Pain during intercourse
  • A sensation of having a full bladder
  • Confusion which can be particularly severe in elderly people


Types of Cystitis

Cystitis can either be classed as acute or as interstitial. The onset of an acute cystitis infection is sudden whereas interstitial cystitis tends to be chronic or long term affecting several layers of bladder tissue


Causes of Cystitis

There are many causes and contributory factors associated with cystitis, both in the acute and interstitial cases.

In the case of acute cystitis, bacterial infection is usually responsible (usually caused by a bacteria called E.coli which normally lives harmlessly in our gut) and the bacteria can be introduced into the urethra, and subsequently the bladder, in many different ways:-

  • During sexual intercourse, bacteria can be introduced into the urethra.
  • Poor hygiene - when the anus is not cleaned properly or is wiped from back to front so introducing some of the bacteria from the gut into the urethra
  • During pregnancy. When you are pregnant, the growing fetus may press on the bladder and, in so doing, prevent the bladder from emptying fully. Retaining small amounts of urine can encourage bacteria to multiply
  • If you have diabetes, it may be that your urine contains more sugar than usual and this can boost the growth of bacteria in the bladder and urethra
  • After Menopause, the types of bacteria that normally live in the vagina may change, and this will increase the risk of getting cystitis.
  • If you have had a catheter fitted (a tube inserted into your bladder to drain urine out of the bladder), bacteria may have been introduced into the bladder by the catheter itself or the bladder or urethra may have been damaged in the process of fitting the catheter which in itself may increase the risk of getting a bacterial infection
  • Stones, known as calculi, such as kidney stones or bladder stones, can become lodged and encourage urine to collect which may lead to the growth of more bacteria 
  • If a man has an enlarged prostate gland, this may block the bladder which means that you urinate less often and so are not ‘flushing’ the bladder out as often as it needs
  • Abnormalities of the urinary tract may make you more prone to cystitis


Other causes of cystitis

  • Chemical irritants such as scented soaps or bubble bath may contribute to inflammation of the bladder and urethra
  • Radiotherapy in the pelvic region
  • Some chemotherapy treatments
  • Cystitis has been linked to the use of the recreational drug Ketamine

When it comes to interstitial cystitis, this chronic condition is not caused by an infection; some women will get this form, and others will not, but the reasons are unclear. It may be caused by:-

  • Problems in the bladder
  • Changes to the nervous system
  • Something present in the urine that is causing the condition
  • Allergy 


Treatment for cystitis


Antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial cystitis, but medication for interstitial cystitis will vary according to its cause.



This is not common but may be considered if some sort of structural repair of the anatomy is required.


Other helpful remedies

Applying heat to the abdomen and lower back may give some relief, as may over-the-counter pain relief.

While it may be necessary to take antibiotics, relief may be found by drinking cranberry juice, drinking plenty of fluids to flush out the bladder, and wearing loose cotton clothes and underwear to keep the pelvic area cool. It is important to note that these remedies should not replace them if antibiotics are needed. 



  1. Cystitis - Causes
  2. What is cystitis?
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