Cystitis is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that most commonly affects women (although men can be affected too). While it is not a sexually transmitted infection, being sexually active can increase your chances of developing it, and while Cystitis is not a serious condition, it can be painful and inconvenient. Mild cases usually clear up on their own, but if you have the infection regularly, you may want to consider taking medicine to help clear it up.
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Cystitis is a urinary tract infection (UTI) that most women will experience at some point during their lives. Although it can affect men as well, it is more common in women because their urethra (the tube through which urine exits the body) is shorter and closer to the anus, making bacteria easier to infect.
This widespread UTI is more common in pregnant, postmenopausal, or sexually active women (although it is not a sexually transmitted infection). Cystitis is characterized by frequent urination (accompanied by pain or stinging), a change in urine color (which could contain blood), and abdominal pain. It can also cause symptoms similar to a cold, such as aches and pains, fatigue, and nausea.
The infection usually lasts 4 to 9 days and can go away on its own, but most people prefer to have Cystitis treated medically because it can cause pain, discomfort, and inconvenience (from going to the toilet frequently).
Because there are many different types of cystitis, there are also many different causes, but they usually fall into one of two categories: bacterial and non-bacterial.
Bacterial Cystitis is the most common type, and it occurs when bacteria enters the urethra and causes infection. This can happen in a variety of ways, including poor toilet habits and hygiene, which is why women are always advised to wipe from front to back to reduce the risk of bacteria spreading from the anus to the urinary tract. Tight underwear can have the same effect, and wearing thongs can also spread bacteria.
Sexual intercourse is another common trigger, which is why women are advised to urinate after sex to flush any bacteria away. It’s also crucial to completely empty your bladder each time you go to the bathroom, as failing to do so can lead to an increase in bacteria and an increased risk of Cystitis. Diabetics are more likely to develop a UTI due to the sugar in their urine, which allows bacteria to grow more easily. If you already have an untreated sexually transmitted infection (such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea), you’re more likely to develop a UTI.
There are a variety of non-bacterial causes in addition to bacterial ones. Other medications or conditions can cause Cystitis as a side effect; certain medicines can cause inflammation of the urinary tract as they leave the body through urine, while existing kidney or spinal cord conditions can cause Cystitis as a side effect. Autoimmune diseases, as well as hypersensitivity to certain chemicals in bath oils, soaps, and sprays, can cause UTIs (because the body misidentifies the bladder cells as a foreign entity and attacks them).
Cystitis is easily treated with antibiotics like Trimethoprim, which clears the infection in a matter of days. You can use painkillers to relieve symptoms in addition to the antibiotic that actually clears the infection (such as discomfort when urinating or abdominal pain).
Aside from medication, there are a number of other factors that can help with Cystitis relief. The most important is to stay hydrated; drinking plenty of water will aid your body (particularly your kidneys) in flushing out the infection. Although many people believe that cranberry juice is particularly effective at this, there is no evidence that it is. However, if you’ve had Cystitis before and want to avoid it happening again, cranberry juice can help.
After the Trimethoprim has cleared your Cystitis, you should think about making some lifestyle changes to help prevent it from returning. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water – at least 1.6 litres per day – are important. This excludes sugary fizzy drinks, caffeine, and alcohol, so stick to water for the best results.
It’s also crucial to wash carefully and pay close attention to your hygiene, avoiding heavily perfumed soaps or lotions and opting for cotton underwear over synthetic fabrics. If you have Cystitis on a regular basis, you should shower instead of bathe, as this exposes the affected area to fewer chemicals over a shorter period of time.
You should keep a log to identify potential causes of your Cystitis, such as smoking and certain foods and drinks. While it may not be practical to avoid sex and certain forms of contraception, you should make sure you urinate after each sex and consider switching your contraception if you’re currently using a diaphragm.
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