Cystitis is a condition which occurs when the bladder becomes inflamed. Cystitis is more common in women than men (nearly all women will experience cystitis at least once in their lifetime); this is mainly due to the length of the urethra being much shorter in women and the proximity of the urethra to the anus. Cystitis is usually a mild condition in women but it can be symptomatic of a more serious health condition in men.

What causes cystitis?

Most cases of cystitis are caused by bacteria, which enter the bladder and reproduce; this causes the lining of the bladder to become irritated and the bladder then becomes inflamed. Bacteria is passed easily from the anus to the urethra in women because the two structures are very close together; simple actions like inserting a tampon or wiping your bottom can lead to bacteria being transferred from the anus to the urethra; sex may also contribute to cystitis. During the menopause, women are also more likely to suffer from cystitis; this is because the decrease in oestrogen causes the lining of the bladder to become thinner, which makes it more susceptible to infection. Other possible causes include:

  • Damage caused by vigorous sexual intercourse
  • Damage caused by using a catheter
  • Wearing tight clothing
  • Diabetes
  • Using substances that irritate the urethra, such as perfumed soap, for example
  • Other underlying health conditions (such as kidney problems)

In men, cystitis may be caused by problems with the prostate gland; it is important to see your doctor if you display any of the symptoms listed below.

Symptoms of cystitis

Common symptoms of cystitis include:

  • Pain and burning sensations when urinating
  • Stinging when urinating
  • Frequent need to urinate (with only small amounts of urine being passed each time)
  • Strong smelling urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Pain in the lower back or abdomen
  • Feeling weak and unwell
  • Blood in the urine

Symptoms in children include dizziness, vomiting, loss of appetite and pain when urinating.

Treatment for cystitis

It is important for men and children to see their doctor if they display any of the symptoms listed above. Women should see their GP if this is the first time they have had cystitis. Women with cystitis usually do not require any treatment and the infection usually clears up within 7 days; however, there are some steps they can take to ease the symptoms; these include:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid having sex until the infection has passed
  • Take over the counter pain relief

If symptoms persist, you may be given antibiotic medication.

Guide to Urinary Problems

Urinary problems

Acute urinary retention

Benign prostatic hyperplasia


Prostate problems


Urinary incontinence

Urinary tract infection