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Bacterial Cystitis

Bacterial Cystitis (BC) is also known as Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), is an inflammation of the bladder caused by bacteria entering the bladder via the urethra (the tube through which urine is passed from the bladder). 

How Common Is Bacterial Cystitis/Urinary Tract Infection?

Bacterial Cystitis/UTI occurs most commonly in women. It is estimated that between one or two out of every five women in the UK will get cystitis at some point in their life. Men and children can be affected, although this is less common. If cystitis is suspected in men or children, it should be treated by a doctor immediately and not with over-the-counter remedies.

Bacteria may be introduced into the urinary system for many reasons. For example:

  • Hygiene – A common cause in women, due to females having a shorter urethra than males and its situation close to the back passage (anus).
  • Catheters – During catheterisation, trauma (damage) may occur to the urethra or bladder, which may increase the danger of infection.
  • Contraception – ill-fitting diaphragms may press against the bladder resulting in incomplete emptying of the bladder.
  • Pregnancy – Pressure from the uterus may result in incomplete emptying of the bladder, thus encouraging bacteria to grow.
  • Poor Bladder Emptying – Residual urine in the bladder can lead to an increased amount of bacteria (or other microorganisms) in the bladder, urethra and kidneys.
  • Abnormalities in the urinary system – Boys and young men may suffer from repeated infections.
  • Abnormal vaginal flora – Changes to the normal vaginal flora may occur after the menopause.
  • Elderly people may be more prone to UTIs.
  • Sexual activities – Sexual intercourse may introduce bacteria to, or cause bruising of, the urethra and cystitis-like symptoms.
  • Women’s Underwear – It has been proven that wearing thongs can bring bacteria from the anus forward to the urethra (bladder opening).
  • Diabetes- The urine of diabetics can contain a lot of sugar, encouraging bacteria to grow. 
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) – Infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause symptoms similar to cystitis, particularly when they are present in young, sexually active men. 
  • Parasites- People who have spent time in North Africa or the Middle East may have been affected by a parasite that produces cystitis like symptoms; however no bacteria will be found in their urine.

Symptoms Of Bacterial Cystitis/UTI

Main symptoms include: 

  • Burning or stinging pain when urinating (dysuria)
  • Frequent need to pass small amounts of urine
  • Feeling of urgency to pass urine even when the bladder is empty
  • Cloudy/dark urine, which may have a strong smell

Additional symptoms may include:

  • Blood in urine (haematuria)
  • Mild fever and chills
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Dull pain in the lower back or abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Nausea

How Is Bacterial Cystitis/UTI Diagnosed?

If symptoms are mild, treatment may be based on these symptoms alone. A specimen of mid-stream urine (MSU) should be collected in a sterile container provided by your GP.  The GP will perform a simple urine test and may also send the sample to the hospital for a full culture test. Your GP will then prescribe the most suitable antibiotics required. If repeated urinary tract infections occur, you may be referred to the see a consultant urologist for further investigation. 

How Can Bacterial Cystitis/UTI Affect An Individual’s Life?

  •  Sleep may be disrupted due to the pain and frequency, this can cause tiredness.
  •  Working life may be disrupted. Time off work may be required in order for antibiotics to have an effect.
  •  Relationships could be affected, especially with your partner. You may find that an attack of cystitis follows sexual intercourse, which can place a strain on the relationship.
  •  Taking antibiotics to cure bacterial cystitis may cause other problems such as Candida (Thrush).
  •  You may need to cease using feminine perfumed products and refrain from wearing thongs or items that are not natural cotton.
  •  Some have found that joining the COB Foundation and being able to share tips and information has helped them to live with their condition. 

How Can COB Help You, If You Join Us? 

The COB Foundation can provide cystitis sufferers with a wealth of information, for example: 

  • Members’ Magazine “Your Bladder Health,” published 3 times per year.
  • BC Handbook – an excellent booklet written to provide practical help and advice. 
  • Telephone Advice Line – 0121 702 0820
  • Telephone contact – with a COB Phone Pal and fellow sufferer.
  • Area Co-ordinator – providing an opportunity to have personal contact with other sufferers.
  • Comprehensive Resources – fact sheets, DVDs, lending library, Can’t Wait Cards and much more. 
  • Message Forums – exchange personal experiences of bladder illness with others.
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