What is Cystitis?

Bladder infection is very common, affecting women more often than men, largely because of anatomy. Other factors can play a part, eg congenital abnormalities of the urinary tract.

SYMPTOMS may be obvious (such as burning on urination, abdominal pain), or silent, ( no specific urinary symptoms, just general malaise and mild nausea) While diagnosis can be made with a simple office urine test, management may be tricky. For isolated or occasional cystitis, the cause is often clear and manageable. Recurrent bladder infections however, need investigating – this may involve laboratory testing of urine samples or even specialist referral to search for an underlying cause.

In nearly all cases, the BACTERIUM RESPONSIBLE for bladder infections is Escherichia coli, a rod-shaped bacterium which normally lives in the colon. This E. coli is microscopic ( 160 of them piled on top of each other make up only 80 μ, which is the thickness of a sheet of paper). can swim in even the tiniest drop of fluid. Any conditions which promote the presence of E. coli on the skin near the urinary tract – eg diarrhoea – will therefore increase the chances of E. coli moving toward the opening of the bladder, thus gaining access to the bladder where it will multiply and cause a bladder infection. Any movements against the skin near the bladder opening will also help E. coli to reach the bladder opening – eg sexual intercourse or wearing tight underwear like G-strings. Uncontrolled diabetes means there is sugar present in the urine and this can be a source of food for E. coli, allowing it to multiply faster. Chronic constipation can also predispose to bladder infections, not by contamination but by causing a relative obstruction to the bladder pipe.

Urinary infection in men is not very common: a more common cause is pressure on the bladder pipe due to an enlarged prostate gland, leading to PROSTATITIS. Whilst women may have silent cystitis, men with prostatis are usually ill with fever and pain.

TREATING urinary infections consists of relieving symptoms (eg pain, bladder spasm) killing the responsible bacterium (with a suitable antibiotic) and dealing with any underlying or predisposing causes. Even for silent infections in women, treatment is warranted to prevent the infection spreading backwards up to the kidneys. Kidney infection is always serious and may even need hospital admission under specialist care. Once the infection has been treated, there are ways of PREVENTING further infections and the choice will depend on individual circumstances. Talk to your doctor about the available options.

Self-treatment of symptoms is clearly an option, but if after two days you still have symptoms or develop a fever, please see you doctor as soon as possible. Taking Citrosoda may partially invalidate the dipstick test, and Pyridium colours the urine so much that a dipstick test often cannot be read. If in doubt, stay off the Pyridium for 24 hours then see your doctor for a urine test.