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Cystitis

Cystitis means soreness and swelling (inflammation) of the bladder. It is usually caused by a bladder infection and is not a sexually transmitted infection. 

Cystitis can occur at any age, in men and women, but is more common in women. It is more common in women who are sexually active or pregnant. Almost all women will experience cystitis at least once in their lifetime and around one in five women will get it again (known as recurrent cystitis). You should see your GP if you experience the symptoms of cystitis for the first time. 

The symptoms of cystitis in men can be caused by other conditions so men should also see their GP if they notice symptoms.

You can be tested and treated for cystitis at your nearest GP surgery or at GUM or sexual health clinics. Brook services do not offer testing or treatment for cystitis but if we think you may have cystitis, we will always do our best to advise you on where you can go for further help.

You can read about cystitis in more detail below.

Signs and symptoms of cystitis

Symptoms of cystitis include:

  • A desperate and frequent need to wee but only passing small amounts
  • Pain, burning or stinging when you wee
  • Pain in directly above your pubic area, lower back or abdomen
  • Wee that is dark, cloudy or smelly
  • Traces of blood when you wee
  • Feeling unwell, weak or feverish (hot and cold)

The causes of cystitis

Cystitis is usually caused by bacteria reaching the bladder, irritating the bladder lining and causing an infection. 

This is more common in women because they have a shorter urethra, which makes it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder.

This bacterial infection is usually as a result of: 

  • Not emptying your bladder properly (this often happens during pregnancy)
  • Bacteria being transferred from the anus to the urethra which can happen during sex, inserting tampons, using a diaphragm or not wiping front to back when using the toilet

Cystitis can also be caused by damage or irritation of the tube (urethra) that carries urine out from the bladder. This damage or irritation can be caused by sex, perfumed soap or talcum powder and kidney infections.

Cystitis may also be caused by thrush and STIs such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia.

Testing for cystitis

Cystitis can generally be diagnosed by describing your symptoms to your GP but in some cases, your GP may also test your wee to look for bacteria. 

If you have recurring cystitis (two infections within six month) that won’t respond to antibiotics, you may need to be referred to a specialist for more tests.

Please be aware that you can be tested and treated for cystitis at your nearest GP surgery or at GUM or sexual health clinics. Brook services do not offer testing or treatment for cystitis but if we think you may have cystitis, we will always do our best to advise you on where you can go for further help.

Treatment of cystitis

If it is mild, cystitis can be easily treated at home by drinking lots of water and taking painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.  It’s also wise to stop having sex until it’s cleared up because this can make it worse. 

If it is a more serious case, a short course of antibiotics may be prescribed but if you keep on getting it (recurring cystitis) then you may be given a longer course of antibiotics.

Page last reviewed: September 2015
Next review due: September 2017