Cystitis is a bladder infection that affects most women at some point during their lifetime.

Although cystitis is most common during periods of particularly frequent sexual activity, it can be caused by a number of factors if bacteria reach the urethra. Some men may also suffer from the condition, although it is relatively rare. Cystitis can be mildly uncomfortable or extremely painful and in some cases antibiotics are needed to treat the infection.

What is cystitis?

Cystitis is a bladder infection, which most often occurs in women due to intestinal bacteria reaching the urethra. It can be painful but it is usually treatable, sometimes requiring a course of antibiotics.

The condition is most likely to occur in women who are sexually active, although women who are pregnant or going through menopause are also susceptible to suffering from the condition.

What causes cystitis?

It is caused by an infection to the bladder, which occurs mainly due to bacteria from the anus reaching the urethra. People who have had catheters fitted are at increased risk of developing the infection, as are women who are pregnant or post-menopausal.

An increase in sexual activity can also cause some women to develop an infection, which is why it is sometimes known as “honeymoon cystitis”. It is believed that certain other conditions such as dermatitis, parasites and some STIs may also increase the chances of contracting cystitis.

Can you prevent cystitis?

There are some measures you can take to limit your chances of contracting cystitis. These can be particularly important for women who suffer from recurrent infections. Drinking a lot of water and cranberry juice can help to reduce the chances of an infection, as can urinating regularly – in particular after sexual intercourse. Avoid using deodorants or perfumes around the vagina if you are prone to suffering from a cystitis infection.

What over-the-counter treatments are available for cystitis?

For milder cases of a cystitis infection, antibiotics are not always necessary and you will be advised to drink plenty of water and cranberry juice or capsules to help flush the bacteria out of the bladder. You should avoid alcohol and sexual intercourse until the infection has cleared as it can cause the infection to worsen. Painkillers can be used to help with the pain; ibuprofen or paracetamol are usually prescribed for this purpose.

What prescription treatments are available?

If you are suffering from a more severe form of a cystitis infection, you will usually be prescribed a course of antibiotics. This should clear the infection itself rather than just alleviating the symptoms, unlike over-the-counter treatments.

One of the most commonly prescribed treatments for a cystitis infection is an antibiotic known as Trimethoprim, which is extremely effective in clearing symptoms within the first 24 hours and can completely cure the infection in 90% of patients.