Can antibiotics help treat cystitis?
Cystitis is an infection or inflammation of the bladder that follows a bacterial infection in the urine. It is the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), particularly in women.
The bladder is a muscular bag that stores urine from the kidneys before the urine leaves the body through a tube called the urethra. Cystitis can occur when urine and the bladder lining become infected after bacteria enters the urethra.
Most cases of cystitis aren’t cause for concern and can be managed with minimal medical treatment. However, if cystitis is left untreated it can spread further up the urinary system to the kidneys. Kidney infections can become very serious and will need immediate medical treatment to prevent any kidney damage or kidney failure.
Symptoms of Cystitis
- Needing to pee frequently
- Burning sensation when you pee
- Dark, cloudy urine with a strong odour
- Lower abdominal pain
- Still feeling like you need to pee after you’ve gone
- A mild fever
Sometimes the infection can travel from the bladder up into the kidney. It is important to seek medical help if you start having symptoms more typical of a kidney infection such as blood in the urine, back pain, high fever, chills, and vomiting.
Without medical treatment, a mild case of cystitis can take at least a week to clear up on its own. More serious cases can take longer or end up becoming worse. However, with treatment, it can clear up as soon as one or two days. Given how unpleasant the symptoms of cystitis can be, treatment is many people’s preferred option so that they can get relief sooner rather than later.
Types of Cystitis
Cystitis can be either acute or interstitial. Acute cystitis comes on suddenly and isn’t long term. Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic form of the condition that can last for significant periods of time.
There are several different causes for both types of cystitis, with the cause determining whether it's acute or chronic.
- Bacterial cystitis: Caused by bacteria entering your urethra or bladder and turning into an infection. It can also be caused by your natural bacteria becoming unbalanced.
- Foreign body cystitis: Caused by long-term use of a catheter, a tube used to assist people urinate.
- Chemical cystitis: Caused due to the use of certain products and substances in and around the genital area. These chemicals can enter the bladder through the urethra and cause cystitis and other types of irritation. Common substances linked to chemical cystitis include spermicidal jelly, scented soaps and bubble bath, and diaphragm.
- Drug-induced cystitis: Caused due to the use of certain medications. When you take a medicine, it works through your body before being passed out through your urine. Some medications, like those used in chemotherapy, can irritate your bladder and bladder lining as it moves through your urinary system.
Cases of cystitis can also be caused by medical conditions like diabetes, kidney stones, prostate issues, immune disorders, and spinal injuries.
Cystitis in Women
Cystitis can occur in both men and women, but it is much more common in women. This is because women have a shorter urethra than men do. A shorter urethra allows bacteria and other substances easier access to the bladder.
Most women will experience cystitis at least once during their lifetime. In addition to the symptoms listed above, some women might experience pelvic pain when they get a cystitis infection.
Women in their late teens and older are most susceptible to cystitis, especially if they have gone through puberty and/or are sexually active. Female sex hormones affect the vaginal secretions that can prevent bacteria from surviving, meaning that these secretions may not always be able to prevent an infection. Hormones can shift during pregnancy, menopause, during different stages of the menstrual cycle, and after a hysterectomy.
Other risk factors for women include:
- Women who use diaphragms or spermicide
- Women who use soaps, douches, or other cleaning products in and around the vagina
- Women who frequently wear tight clothing, tights, or pantyhose
- Women who have sex without enough lubrication
- Women who use tampons or who don’t change them often enough
Male cystitis infections are usually caused by bladder stones, a prostate infection, or an enlarged prostate. All these conditions prevent the bladder from fully emptying which allows bacteria to grow.
One of the main ways to prevent cystitis is to urinate whenever you feel the urge. Holding your bladder for too long isn’t good for your urinary health and can cause several issues, including cystitis. Women should wipe front to back after using the toilet.
Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice is thought to help bladder health. You should also drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and to help flush out your system. Urinating immediately after sex will always help flush out any bacteria.
Avoid wearing tight clothing all the time and instead opt for natural fibres where you can, especially your underwear. Nylon and polyester aren’t optimal for getting enough air flow around your genitals like cotton and linen are.
If you’ve been given a diagnosis of cystitis, you’ll most likely be given a prescription for antibiotics. Antibiotics are the main treatment for cystitis and work by clearing up any bacteria that is in your bladder and urinary system. It’s important to take each and every tablet you’ve been prescribed, even if you’re starting to feel better. Not finishing your course of antibiotics can cause the infection to come back.
Two of the most common antibiotics for cystitis are:
- Trimethoprim Tablets: Effective antibiotics that can be used to treat various infections like cystitis, UTIs, recurrent bladder infections, respiratory infections, and sinus infections.
- Nitrofurantoin Tablets: Antibiotics that work by killing the bacteria that causes UTIs, kidney infections, and cystitis.