Cystitis: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Cystitis is a condition wherein the bladder is inflamed and there is a presence of swelling, redness or irritation. 

The most common cause of cystitis is urinary tract infection or UTI. This occurs when a bacteria enters the urethra or bladder and starts reproducing.

Another cause of cystitis is when the body’s naturally occurring bacteria increasingly grow that it becomes imbalanced. Then, the bacteria produces an infection and is manifested by inflammation.

Cystitis may not originate from an infection. For instance, some medicines as well as hygiene products may result in inflammation.

The treatment options for cystitis may vary based on the underlying condition. In most cases, cystitis may be acute or unexpected. When it occurs in longer periods (chronic), it is termed as Interstitial cystitis.

Cystitis can affect both genders, but women are more prominent.

Symptoms of cystitis

A person with cystitis may feel at least one of the following symptoms:

  • frequent need to urinate
  • cloudy urine or with strong smell
  • urinary incontinence or urge to urinate even after bladder emptying
  • low-grade fever (usually observed with urinary tract infection)
  • painful sexual intercourse
  • presence of blood in the urine
  • cramping in the back or abdomen
  • feeling of pressure or fullness of bladder

Once a bladder infection has reached the kidneys, it may turn into a serious health problem. Aside from the symptoms mentioned above, symptoms of infection in the kidney may be:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • chills 
  • back pain or pain on the side of the hips

If you have fever or presence of blood in the urine, this might mean that cystitis has an underlying condition. Nevertheless, these symptoms may happen in conjunction with the established symptoms of kidney infection. If you have several symptoms mentioned above, consult your doctor right away.

Causes of cystitis

The variant of cystitis determines its cause. Here are the possible origin of cystitis:

  • urinary tract infection or UTI
  • taking drugs associated with cystitis as side effects
  • radiation exposure
  • maintenance of urinary catheter
  • usage of hygiene products associated with irritation

Different types of cystitis

The two main types of cystitis are acute and interstitial. When it occurs all of the sudden, it is classified as Acute cystitis. Interstitial cystitis or IC is a long-term/chronic condition which affects several layers of tissue in the bladder.

Both types of cystitis have a wide range of known causes, which determines its type. Here are the different types of cystitis:

Bacterial cystitis

This type of cystitis is formed when the bacteria reaches the urinary bladder or urethra and thereby produces an infection. It is also possible to happen when naturally growing bacteria becomes imbalanced in the body. This leads to inflammation in the bladder or cystitis.

It is highly important to treat the infection in the bladder since when the infection starts affecting the kidneys, it may turn into a serious health concern.

Drug-induced cystitis

Some medications are associated with bladder inflammation as their known side effect. As medicines enter and pass through the body, some of them may be excreted through your urinary system. As such, these medications may cause irritation in the bladder as they get excreted. Chemotherapeutic drugs, particularly ifosfamide and cyclophosphamide may cause hemorrhagic cystitis.

Radiation cystitis

Normally, radiation therapy will kill only cancer cells and shrink existing tumors. However, it can damage healthy tissues and cells as well. Radiation therapy in the pelvic region may cause an inflamed bladder.

Foreign body cystitis

A catheter is a tube that serves as a tool to help facilitate the urine excretion from the bladder. Long-term use of this medical supply increases the risk of bacterial infection and may lead to damaged tissues in the urinary system. Damaged tissues as well as bacteria contribute to inflammation of the bladder.

Chemical cystitis

Some hygiene products have the ability to cause irritation in the bladder. Typically, these products include:

  • using diaphragm with spermicide
  • spermicidal jellies
  • chemicals from the soap used in a bubble bath
  • feminine wash or sprays

Cystitis associated with other diseases

At some point, cystitis results as a symptom of other existing medical conditions, like:

  • kidney stones
  • diabetes
  • enlargement of prostate
  • HIV
  • spinal injury

Population at risk for cystitis

Generally, cystitis is more predominant in women since they have shorter urethra. But men are still at risk to have this condition.

For women, the risk for getting cystitis increases when they:

  • are pregnant
  • are sexually active
  • use diaphragms with spermicide components
  • are using hygiene products that may cause irritation
  • have undergone the menopause stage

Meanwhile, men with enlarged prostate may also be at higher risk for getting cystitis since the urine may be retained longer in the bladder.

Here are the risk factors of cystitis shared by men and women:

  • current or recent urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • undergoing chemotherapy
  • undergoing radiation therapy
  • utilization of a catheter
  • kidney stones
  • diabetes
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection
  • interference with urine flow
  • spinal injury

How is cystitis diagnosed?

There are several ways to detect or confirm cystitis. First, the doctor may order for your urine sample to detect the cause of cystitis and check for urinary tract infection (UTI). The doctor may opt to perform cystoscopy, the imaging test to visualize the cause of your current symptoms.


Cystoscopy is done by inspecting a patient’s bladder with the aid of a light and camera attached to a thin tube. If needed, the doctor may also use the cystoscope to collect a sample of bladder tissue for biopsy (a procedure used to collect samples of small tissue for microscopic testing).

Imaging test

Although imaging tests are not always necessary, they can still be helpful in the diagnosis of cystitis. For instance, an ultrasound or x-ray helps to rule out causes of cystitis, like a tumor or a structural issue.

How to treat cystitis?


The most common treatment for bacterial cystitis is antibiotic. Interstitial cystitis is also treatable with medication, but the treatment options will depend on its root cause.


Surgery is another option in treating cystitis, but oftentimes it is not the first choice of physicians as it is commonly used only for chronic conditions. Structural issues are repaired by surgery.

Home care

In order to ease discomfort, home care treatments are employed. Some of these methods are:

  • using heating pads to over the abdomen or back
  • sitz baths in order to clean the pelvic side
  • over-the-counter pain blockers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen 

The symptoms of cystitis symptoms are manageable at home, even with no medication. But if the patient has a UTI, taking antibiotics is a must.

Some common home remedy for treating cystitis are:

  • water therapy
  • drinking cranberry juice or in tablet form
  • wearing underwear made of cotton and clothes with comfortable fitting
  • avoiding foods or beverages associated with cystitis 

Alternative treatments

Nonsurgical intervention for cystitis also exist. For instance, stretching the urinary bladder using gas or water can temporarily relieve the symptoms.

On the other hand, nerve stimulation may be employed to lessen the times for bathroom visits and at the same time, relieve the pain in the pelvic area. 

For cystitis due to chemotherapy and radiation,  medication may help fo flush the bladder.

What is the prognosis for cystitis?

Generally, the prognosis of cystitis will depend on the root cause of the current symptoms. It’s prognosis is usually good. But it is important to note that the underlying condition must be treated right away. If you experience the above-mentioned symptoms of cystitis, it is recommended to consult your doctor.

While recovering from cystitis, here are some methods that will help you get back on track:

  • drink lots of water
  • avoid holding urine
  • avoid coffee/caffeinated drinks that irritate the bladder
  • wear underwear with loose fitting, preferably made of cotton

Preventing cystitis

First and foremost, women should wipe their genital areas from front to back upon urinating and bowel movement. This prevents contaminating the urinary tract due to fecal bacteria. Additionally, taking a shower instead of bath also help. Wash the the genital area gently with suitable soap solution to prevent irritation around the sensitive area. Finally, after sexual intercourse, women should drink some water and urinate.