What is cystitis?

Cystitis is a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that inflames the lining of your bladder. Your bladder stores urine until you have the urge to urinate and when you have cystitis an infection inflames your bladder, and if left untreated, the bacterial infection can spread to your kidneys where it is more likely to become more serious.

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Bladder
  • Urine
  • Kidneys
  • Urethra – is a tube in your urinary system that transports urine from your bladder to outside your body
  • Bowel – this is a section of your digestive tract that is involved in the break down, absorption and excretion of food
  • Anus – this is the opening from your bowel to outside your body for excretion of waste (faeces)
  • Bacteria.

What are the symptoms of cystitis?

If you have cystitis, you may feel generally unwell. 

The main symptoms of cystitis may be:

  • Pain or discomfort when you urinate (such as a burning sensation)
  • The need to urinate small amounts frequently
  • A constant, dull ache in your lower abdomen
  • Urine that smells, is cloudy or has blood.

Although cystitis symptoms can be uncomfortable, symptoms usually improve after a few days. If you are experiencing symptoms that persist or are worsening, such as a fever, nausea or backache, make sure you visit your doctor. Blood in the urine warrants immediate medical attention.

What causes cystitis?

Although harmless bacteria exist in your bowel to help your body digest food, the bacteria can enter your urinary tract where they multiply and inflame the tissue, leading to an infection.

There can be various causes of cystitis. One of the most common ways that cystitis occurs is when uropathogenic bacteria from your bowel reaches your bladder by moving from the opening of your bowel (anus) into the tube that carries urine from your bladder (urethra) to outside your body.

Women are at higher risk for cystitis than men as the female anatomy makes it more likely for bacteria to spread from bowel to urinary tract. This is because the urethra and anus are shorter and closer together. 

You can also be at increased risk for cystitis if you’re sexually active, pregnant or diabetic, have recently had a bladder catheter or urological disease. Women who had gone through menopause are also at a higher risk for cystitis. 

Preventing cystitis

Even if you are at risk for cystitis, there are preventative measures you can take to help reduce your risk especially if you are prone to recurrent bouts of cystitis. These include:

  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Wiping from front to back after the toilet
  • Use plain toilet paper
  • Wearing cotton underpants
  • Washing your genital area daily with water and avoiding soap, douches and scrubbing
  • Emptying your bladder as soon as you have the urge to urinate and after intercourse
  • Ensuring you completely empty your bladder when you urinate
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Drink plenty of water.

Cystitis management and healthy living

If you think you may have symptoms of cystitis, it’s important to visit your doctor early to prevent the infection spreading to your kidneys, which may cause further damage. If left untreated for a long time it can have serious consequences.

Make sure you drink lots of water and get plenty of rest.  Your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection. You can also try a few things at home to help your symptoms, such as:

  • Put a hot pack on your back, stomach or between your legs
  • Have a warm bath
  • Lying in a warm bed.

If you would like to try natural medications, make sure check with your health professional if they are appropriate for you.

Did you know?

  • Around 30% to 50% of women will have cystitis at some point in their lives
  • Half the women who have cystitis once are likely to get it again, usually within the same year
  • Cystitis can affect all ages but is more common in the elderly
  • Cystitis can occur commonly in children where it can become more serious.


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Even if you are at risk for cystitis, there are preventative measures you can take to help reduce your risk especially if you are prone to recurrent bouts of cystitis.