Cystitis is a common condition that has many potential causes.

Cystitis is the medical term for inflammation of the bladder.

Most of the time, cystitis is caused by a bacterial infection of the bladder and is called a urinary tract infection (UTI). Sometimes, and less commonly, cystitis can be caused by the body’s reaction to:

  • Certain medications
  • Radiation therapy
  • Irritants, like spermicidal jellies, feminine hygiene sprays, or the long-term use of a catheter
  • Complications from another illness

Cystitis is often very uncomfortable, and the signs and symptoms are easy to detect. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your primary care provider to make an appointment:

  • A strong, persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent and small amounts of urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
  • Discomfort in the pelvic region
  • A feeling of pressure in the lower back
  • A low-grade fever
  • In children, new episodes of accidental daytime wetting

In addition to contacting a doctor if the previous symptoms occur, one should call their doctor immediately if they’re suffering from symptoms common to a kidney infection. These include:

  • Back or side pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea or vomiting

In otherwise healthy men, cystitis is rare and should be investigated by a doctor immediately.

Bacterial cystitis is caused when bacteria outside of the body enters the urinary tract through the urethra. Once it enters the urethra, it multiplies and causes discomfort. Bacterial infections occur in women most often after having sexual intercourse, because bacteria in the vagina from the anus is brought close to the urethra. Sexually inactive women and girls can also suffer from the infection. Post menopausal women will have atrophy of the urethra which results in less defense against bacterial infection.

Most cystitis is caused by bacteria, but there are some instances where this is not the case. This is referred to as noninfectious cystitis, which can be caused by the following:

  • Interstitial cystitis: the cause is unclear and can be difficult to diagnose or treat. It is an inflammation of the bladder lining with no clear etiology.
  • Drug-induced cystitis: certain medications can cause inflammation of the bladder, such as cyclophosphamide.
  • Radiation cystitis: radiation treatment of the pelvic area can cause inflammation of the bladder.
  • Foreign body cystitis: such as long term use of a catheter
  • Chemical cystitis: can be caused by bubble bath, hygiene sprays, spermicidal jellies, etc.
  • Cystitis associated with other conditions: such as Crohn’s disease, lupus, and gynecologic cancers (where inflammation or erosion into the bladder by adjacent diseased organs causes the condition)

Women who are at the greatest risk of UTIs include those who:

  • Use certain types of birth control
  • Are pregnant
  • Are sexually active

Other risk factors in both men and women include:

  • Interference with the flow of urine
  • Changes in the immune system
  • Prolonged use of bladder catheters

When treated in a time-efficient manner, cystitis rarely causes complications. If left untreated, it can cause kidney infections or blood in the urine.

Cystitis is usually diagnosed via a urine sample, although a cystoscopy or imaging tests may be used to further evaluate the condition.


Cystitis is most often treated with antibiotics and can be expected to clear up within a few days. To ease your discomfort during the recovery process, some use a heating pad, soak in a bathtub of warm water, or make an effort to stay hydrated.

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