Cystitis and UTI Symptoms – Know When to Seek Help

Are you experiencing a burning feeling when you urinate? You are certainly not alone. Many women are diagnosed with cystitis (a bladder infection), which is the most common form of urinary tract infection (UTI) you can have.1a In fact, UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections, with around 250,000 Australians developing one each year.

Cystitis may be a painful and frustrating problem. Taking prompt action at the first signs of a UTI can help relieve or prevent painful symptoms and stop a mild case of cystitis developing into something more serious in rare cases.


Recognising Cystitis and UTI symptoms

One of the first signs of cystitis is usually a faint, burning or prickling feeling when you urinate. You can try a bit of self-care at this point to try and prevent things getting any worse.

You might try:

  • Drinking lots of water and emptying your bladder completely when you need to urinate – this will help dilute your urine and flush the bacteria out of your system
  • Taking an over-the-counter product, such as a urinary alkalinser like Ural, to help make your urine less acidic and relieve painful cystitis symptoms

Some other symptoms include feeling like you have to urinate more often (but not much urine comes out), urinating becomes more painful and you may feel discomfort in your lower tummy (pelvis area). Your urine may also start to have a strong smell and look cloudy (or even be bloody).

If the infection spreads beyond the bladder to your kidneys, some more serious symptoms may emerge, these could include a temperature, chills, shaking and pain or tenderness in the upper or side of your back.


What is a UTI?

The most common reason for a UTI is a bacterial infection somewhere in your urinary tract. Your urinary tract is the system of organs and tubes in your body that makes and then transports urine to the outside of your body. Urine is made up of waste and unwanted fluid removed from your blood by your kidneys. It travels from the kidneys down narrow tubes (called ureters) to the bladder, where it is temporarily stored. When you empty your bladder (urinate) the urine flows from the bladder and out of your body via another tube called the urethra.

The bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) will most likely be the cause of the problem as it’s responsible for about 80% of all UTIs. E. coli occurs naturally in your digestive tract and is usually harmless, but it may thrive in the bladder’s acidic environment, where it may multiply and cause bladder lining inflammation.

In most cases UTIs will only involve the lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra). This type of UTI is called cystitis and is where the bacterial infection has spread up the urethra to the bladder. Once infected the bladder lining becomes raw and inflamed. If the infection is not treated at this point bacteria can continue to multiply and spread into the urinary system.


Know when to seek help

Mild UTIs can sometimes get better on their own – but there are potentially serious complications when a UTI becomes severe.

Being able to recognise cystitis and other UTI symptoms is important so the infection can be treated before it gets severe and may potentially spread to your kidneys. If your kidneys become infected this can lead to kidney damage or even kidney failure.

If you have had UTI symptoms for more than 2 days or self-care treatments aren’t working and you aren’t feeling any better it’s best to seek professional medical advice quickly.