Cystitis is inflammation of the urethra and bladder. Most of the time, the inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, in which case it can also be referred to as a urinary tract infection. A bladder infection is painful and irritating, and can become a serious health problem if the infection spreads to your kidneys.
Cystitis occurs when the urethra and bladder, which make up the lower urinary tract, is infected by bacteria and becomes irritated and inflamed. The condition frequently affects sexually active women ages 20 to 50 but may also occur in those who are not sexually active or in young girls. Older adults are also at high risk for developing cystitis, with the incidence in the elderly being much higher than in younger people. In women the most common cause of infection is from E. coli and Staphylococcus saprophyticus.
Cystitis is rare in males. Females are more prone to the development of cystitis because of their shorter urethra — bacteria do not have to travel a long way to enter the bladder— and because of the relatively short distance between the opening of the urethra and the anus. Nevertheless, it is not an exclusively female disease.
The symptoms of cystitis are: 1) painful urination (dysuria); 2) urgent need to urinate (urinary urgency); 3) abnormal urine color (cloudy), similar to a urinary tract infection; 4) foul or strong urine odor; 5) blood in the urine (hematuria).
A urinalysis commonly reveals white blood cells (WBCs) or red blood cells (RBCs). A urine culture (clean catch) or catheterized urine specimen may be performed to determine the type of bacteria in the urine and the appropriate antibiotic for treatment. Prompt treatment is almost always recommended due to the risk of the infection spreading to the kidneys. It is advised to avoid vaginal penetration until the infection has cleared up. Antibiotics are used to control bacterial infection. It is vital that a course of antibiotics, once started, be completed.
Cystitis may also occur as a reaction to certain drugs, radiation therapy or potential irritants, such as feminine hygiene spray, spermicidal jellies or long-term use of a catheter. Cystitis may also occur as a complication of another illness.