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Cystitis (Bladder Infection)

Inflammation of the bladder, causing pain and a burning feeling in the pelvis or urethra.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

About Cystitis

Many women know only too well the symptoms of cystitis, an inflammation of the bladder also often referred to as a urinary tract infection (UTI): frequently having to go to the bathroom, stinging and burning when passing urine. These symptoms are often very unpleasant, but they can be successfully treated.

Uncomplicated cystitis usually clears up without any problems. Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire way to reliably prevent cystitis — and a lot of the prevention strategies that women use in everyday life have not yet been tested in scientific studies.

In this fact sheet we explain what causes bacterial cystitis and what prevention and treatment options there are. We will not discuss chronic cystitis such as interstitial cystitis, which is not caused by bacteria, in this fact sheet. We will also not get into the specifics of treatment in pregnant women here.

What is cystitis?

Uncomplicated cystitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the bladder. It is normally caused by bacteria that get into the urethra and enter the bladder. Once in the bladder, the bacteria stick to the bladder wall and multiply, leading to an inflammation of the tissue lining the inside of the bladder... Read more about Cystitis

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Radiotherapy to the pelvis for cancer can damage the bladder in some, leading to late radiation cystitis

This can cause urinary problems including pain, blood in the urine and reduced bladder capacity. A cycle of bleeding, infection and occasionally life‐threatening complications can occur. Options include treating infections, blood transfusion, catheterisation, drugs inserted into the bladder, and surgery. This review found no evidence from trials to determine the effects of non‐surgical treatments for late radiation cystitis, although some drugs inserted into the bladder may be advantageous.

There is no evidence of difference in clinical and microbiological efficacy of quinolones for uncomplicated acute cystitis in women, but there is some evidence of differences in occurrence and range of adverse reactions.

Urinary tract infection (UTI) refers to the presence of a certain threshold number of bacteria in the urine. Bacterial cystitis (bacteria in the bladder, also called acute cystitis) can occur in men and women and the signs and symptoms include dysuria (pain on passing urine), frequency, cloudy urine, occasionally haematuria (blood in the urine), and is often associated with pyuria (high urine white blood cell count). There is an additional important distinction between complicated and uncomplicated UTI. Complicated UTIs are those associated with fever and/or back pain (indicating kidney infection), UTIs in men, UTIs associated with indwelling or intermittent urinary catheters, obstructive uropathy (any changes in the urinary tract due to obstruction), vesicoureteric reflux (urine travels from the bladder back up toward the kidneys) and other urological abnormalities. These types of infections require more intensive treatment. Uncomplicated acute cystitis is the most prevalent form of uncomplicated UTI in women. Quinolones are recommended as the drugs of choice for acute cystitis in regions where the level of resistance to other antimicrobials namely co‐trimoxazole is high. The aim of this systematic review was to investigate which quinolone is most effective in treating uncomplicated acute cystitis and to also investigate safety and how well they are tolerated. Eleven studies (7535 women) were identified. No two studies compared the same quinolones. We found no significant differences in clinical or microbiological efficacy between quinolones. Several adverse events were reported in the individual studies. These included photosensitivity, insomnia, skin adverse events, central nervous system adverse events and adverse events leading to withdrawal to treatment. We were unable to determine which quinolone would be the safest or the most tolerated due to the lack of head‐to‐head data.

Intravesical treatments for painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis(PBS/IC).

Interstitial cystitis is also known as painful bladder syndrome. It typically causes symptoms of bladder and pelvic pain, an increased urge to pass urine and excessive urination during both day and night. The cause of the condition is not well‐understood but it is thought to result from long‐standing inflammation of the bladder. Many treatments have been used for PBS/IC and in this review we assess the effects of putting medication directly into the bladder (bladder instillations) to treat it.

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Summaries for consumers

Can cranberry products prevent cystitis?

Women who keep getting cystitis are sometimes advised to use cranberry products to try to prevent further infections. But research has shown that these products don’t have a preventive effect.

Radiotherapy to the pelvis for cancer can damage the bladder in some, leading to late radiation cystitis

This can cause urinary problems including pain, blood in the urine and reduced bladder capacity. A cycle of bleeding, infection and occasionally life‐threatening complications can occur. Options include treating infections, blood transfusion, catheterisation, drugs inserted into the bladder, and surgery. This review found no evidence from trials to determine the effects of non‐surgical treatments for late radiation cystitis, although some drugs inserted into the bladder may be advantageous.

Are antibiotics effective against acute cystitis?

Three or more days of antibiotics nearly always make the symptoms of uncomplicated cystitis disappear quickly. Taking antibiotics for five days or more can get rid of the last of the bacteria causing the infection. But the longer the treatment, the more side effects it causes.

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More about Cystitis

Photo of a young adult woman

Also called: Acute cystitis

See Also: Urethritis, Pyelonephritis, Interstitial Cystitis

Other terms to know:
Bacteria, Pelvis, Urethra

Related articles:
Understanding Urine Tests

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