UTI or Cystitis? What’s the difference?

Is it a UTI or cystitis? Unless you’re medically trained this may not be the first question you ask yourself when rushing back to the toilet for another painful experience.

A UTI is a general term used to describe an infection (usually bacterial) that can occur anywhere in the urinary tract (which includes the urethra, bladder, ureters and the kidneys).

When an infection has been medically diagnosed in the bladder lining, it is called cystitis and this is the most common type of UTI seen in women.

Having a better idea of what UTIs and cystitis are can help explain why you may have those painful symptoms and why different types of self-care may be useful in relieving symptoms or even preventing them reoccurring. It may also help you decide when it’s time to get help.


What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

UTI is a general umbrella term used to describe an infection anywhere in the urinary tract, most commonly caused by bacterial microorganisms.

Different types of UTI occur depending on which part of the urinary tract is infected.

Parts of the urinary tract include the:

Urethra – the tube through which urine travels from the bladder to the outside of the body.
Bladder – Most urinary tract infections involve the bladder. This occurs when bacteria travel up the urethra into the bladder. The bladder lining becomes inflamed and swollen, it can become painful to pass urine and when you do it may be cloudy or bloody.
Kidneys – remove waste and extra fluid from your blood to make urine.
Ureters – carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder


What is Cystitis?

Cystitis is an infection of the bladder and is the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI). It needs to be medically diagnosed. UTIs are a common problem, particularly for women. It’s been estimated that about 1 in 3 women will have a UTI diagnosed by their doctor by the time they are aged 24, and approximately 1 in 2 may have a UTI at some point in their life – the majority of these UTIs involve the lower urinary tract including the bladder and the urethra.

Most of the time this is caused by a bacterial infection, but not always. Other, less common causes include a sensitivity to chemicals in certain products (such as feminine hygiene sprays or bubble baths), reactions to certain medications or treatments.

Self-care actions such as drinking lots of water and complete bladder emptying may help flush bacteria out of your system and taking over-the-counter products, such as urinary alkalinisers to make your urine less acidic, may help relieve some of the painful cystitis symptoms. If you think you may have cystitis, it is important to consult a healthcare professional.