The guide to UTIs and Cystitis

Cystitis (pronounced: sist-itis) is a common Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) which involves the inflammation or swelling of the bladder caused by a bacterial infection. It’s known to affect both men and women, it can be painful, however it is not normally a serious condition and it can be treated and even prevented if the right steps are taken. This page is designed to provide you with all the information you need to learn more about the condition, answer your questions and make more informed decisions.

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What is a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)?

A Urinary Tract Infection, or a UTI, is an infection in the bladder, kidneys, urethra and/or the urinary tubes (ureters) caused by harmful bacteria entering the urinary tract. This triggers the body’s natural immune response, causing inflammation, swelling and redness of the bladder which can be uncomfortable at times and quite painful at others. Most UTIs are not serious or life-threatening, however if left untreated, they can lead to further medical issues such as a kidney infection. Urinary Tract Infections are considered very common and can affect all ages. It’s estimated that around 1 in 2 women and 1 in 20 men will have a UTI at least once in their lives.

How do I know if I have a Urinary Tract Infection?

While only a medical professional like your GP can determine for sure if you have a Urinary Tract Infection, there are several UTI symptoms that you will notice which can be key indicators. These include:

  • General discomfort in your lower stomach or abdomen
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Unusually frequent visits to the toilet
  • The sudden need to urinate
  • The feeling that the bladder is still full after going to the toilet
  • Seeing blood in your urine

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or if you notice anything unusual, speak to your health professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. However, if you are also experiencing back or side pain, fevers and chills, nausea and vomiting, in addition to the above, you should seek medical assistance immediately. For more information, visit our page: Cystitis and UTI Symptoms – Know When to Seek Help.

Are UTIs contagious?

As UTIs are usually caused by bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), they are not contagious. This means that it can’t be spread to other people through forms of direct contact. However, the symptoms of a UTI, mentioned above, can often be similar to and mistaken for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), which are contagious. This is the reason why people often (wrongly) assume that Urinary Tract Infections can be spread. If you are unsure whether you have an STI or a UTI, you should always consult your health professional.

What are the types of UTIs?

There are several types of Urinary Tract Infections, depending on which part of your renal system is directly affected. These include:

  1. Cystitis – an infection in the bladder.
  2. Urethritis – an infection in the urethra.
  3. Pyelonephritis – an infection in the kidneys.
  4. Ureteritis – an infection in the ureters.

What is Cystitis?

Cystitis is the most common type of UTI and occurs when there is inflammation of the bladder due to an infection.

This usually occurs when bacteria enters the body through the urethra, which is the tube that transports urine away from the bladder for removal. Once the bacteria, usually Escherichia coli (E. coli), enters, it can multiply rapidly in urine, making its way into the bladder. The body responds to the intrusion, causing an inflammatory response to fight the bacteria. It’s this immune response that causes some of the common symptoms of cystitis.

Are Cystitis and UTIs the same?

Cystitis is a form of Urinary Tract Infection. This means that all cases of cystitis are UTIs, but not all UTIs are cystitis. It’s important to know which Urinary Tract Infection you have to ensure that you use the right treatment. Cystitis is specific to the bladder however other UTIs affect other parts of the renal system. For more information visit our Cystitis or UTI? What’s the difference? page.

What are the causes of Cystitis?

Cystitis can be caused by anything which causes the bladder to become inflamed. As mentioned above, the majority of cases are the result of E. Coli bacteria which lives harmlessly in the gastrointestinal tract or around the anus. However, when it enters the bladder’s acidic internal environment, it can thrive, multiply rapidly and affect the lining of the bladder. Occasionally it is caused by other microorganisms such as fungi and protozoa. There are a few risk factors that can cause cystitis, such as:

  • Frequent sexual intercourse
  • Reactions to certain drugs or medication
  • Poor hygiene practice
  • Cancer radiation treatment in the pelvic region
  • Use of harsh soaps and deodorant sprays near the groin
  • When a patient has a catheter in the urethra
  • Urinary tract obstruction

For more information, visit our causes of cystitis page.

What are the signs and symptoms of Cystitis?

While Urinary Tract Infection symptoms can be more general, the common signs of cystitis include:

  • A continual need to urinate
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing only small amounts of urine despite the bladder feeling full
  • Urine is cloudy, bloody or pungent
  • An uncomfortable feeling in the pelvic region
  • Pressure in the lower abdomen area
  • A slight fever

How is Cystitis diagnosed?

If you experience any of the above symptoms, seek medical advice from your health professional. Your health professional will generally ask you for a mid-stream urine sample which they will then test for bacteria using a urinary dipstick test or send it away to be observed with a culture under a microscope. The results will be able to determine more accurately if you are suffering from a UTI and what treatment options will be most effective to treat the condition. Just don’t leave your diagnosis too long. While some mild forms of cystitis can sometimes get better on their own, if they don’t, more serious complications such as kidney infection can occur.

How does Cystitis affect women?

Woman are more susceptible to contracting cystitis than men due to two main reasons.

  1. The female urethra is a lot shorter and straighter, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder
  2. Due to hormonal fluctuations throughout their lives.

These hormonal events can occur:

  • After a complete hysterectomy
  • Being sexually active
  • Through the use of contraceptive diaphragms
  • Certain times within the menstrual cycle
  • During menopause
  • Whilst pregnant

How does Cystitis affect men?

While men are at a much lower risk of cystitis than women, it tends to be more common later in life due to.

  • Urine flow issues as a result of problems with the prostate gland
  • Bladder catheters and some Urinary tract operations

How is Cystitis treated?

Cystitis is painful and uncomfortable, so you want to treat it as soon as possible.

The best option is to act as soon as the first symptoms start to show, such as when you feel a faint itchiness when going to the toilet. Some self-help treatments may resolve cystitis in a few days.

Self-care tips

  • Drink plenty of fluids to remain hydrated and flush out your bladder
  • Plenty of rest, to give your body time to recover
  • Use a urinary alkaliniser such as URAL, available in lemon or cranberry flavours, to help neutralise the acidity of the urine and provide relief from the painful, burning symptoms of cystitis. The extra liquid that you consume when drinking a sachet of URAL effervescent powder dissolved in a full glass of water acts to dilute your urine and well as helping to ‘flush’ the bacteria from your urinary tract.
  • URAL Daily Supplement High Strength Cranberry 60,000mg is a concentrated one-a day capsule to support urinary tract health and may reduce the risk of cystitis by discouraging harmful bacteria from attaching to the walls of your bladder and urethra
  • Avoid acidic food and drink
  • Take painkillers, like paracetamol, to reduce the pain

Medical treatments

If your condition isn’t improving, you should seek professional medical advice.

Your GP will test your urine, and based on the results, will provide an appropriate treatment plan which may include antibiotics.

If you suffer from cystitis regularly or your case is more severe than usual, your GP may refer you onto a specialist, as it may indicate another related concern such as kidney infection.

Of course, prevention is always better than cure!

There are some daily self-care tips that can be useful to help reduce your risk of cystitis, such as drinking lots of fluids and going to the toilet regularly.

For more information, visit our preventing cystitis page for tips on how to avoid cystitis.

Do you have more questions about Cystitis?

No worries! Have a look through our FAQs page for answers to frequently asked questions about cystitis, symptom relief and how Ural can help manage cystitis.

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Most UTIs are caused by bacteria

The infection spreads up the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of your body) and once it reaches the bladder…

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Getting to know cystitis symptoms

Being able to recognise cystitis and other UTI symptoms is important so you can decide whether to self treat or consult a healthcare professional.

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A few self-care tips on prevention

So what can you do to prevent cystitis? Here are a few general tips to help you develop good urinary health habits.