Cystitis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Urinary tract infections (UTI) are a typical occurrence in women. Roughly 40% develop a UTI at some stage of their lives. 

A UTI has resulted in 8 million visits to a health center and 100,000 hospital admissions across the United States. In just a year of getting an infection to the urinary pathway, 27% to 46% of female patients will have a second UTI.

Cystitis is a type of UTI that typically affects the female population, but it can affect men too. Although it isn’t always a serious problem, cystitis can be a nuisance to deal with. 

It should go away in a couple of days, and the symptoms should subside. But, to get cystitis under control, you should know what you are dealing with and how best to manage it.

What is Cystitis?

Cystitis is an infection that influences the lower urinary tract. Or, more precisely, the bladder. It makes the bladder wall inflamed. The bladder and urethra are normally free of microbes. But, when bacteria fasten to the bladder, that’s when the organ develops irritation and inflammation.

Cystitis in the bladder can appear in people of all ages. It also affects both men and women. Roughly 80% of UTIs are triggered by bacteria from the bowel that get to the urinary tract. 

Cystitis falls into two broad categories: complicated or uncomplicated cystitis. 

Uncomplicated Cystitis

Uncomplicated cystitis refers to a UTI in women and men. An uncomplicated urinary tract infection prompts acute urinary symptoms like urinary frequency, dysuria, or urinary urgency. This happens in healthy women who are not pregnant. Uncomplicated cystitis is the reason for 95% of cases in standard practice. 

Acute cystitis doesn’t provoke any abnormalities. With it, the inflammation of the urinary bladder appears suddenly. It can affect the urinary tract – urethra, bladder, and ureter. Despite its frequent occurrence, acute cystitis can still be uncomfortable to deal with. The genital pain, trouble urinating, and urinary urgency can affect your day-to-day life. 

Complicated Cystitis

Complicated cystitis is connected to risk factors that make a person prone to infection. Or the possibility of that person failing antibiotic therapy. A complicated urinary tract infection is more likely to fail treatment. 

When treating a complicated UTI, like recurrent cystitis, patients need to take antibiotics for a longer period. Recurrent infections that re-appear despite proper treatment are what experts call complicated. That’s why recurrent UTI management requires well-coordinated care. Doctors will choose the best oral therapy for treating any recurrent urinary tract infection.

Key Signs That Can Help You Spot the Problem

When there is a bladder infection, people have trouble peeing. The bladder lining has been in touch with bacteria, which begins to affect the urine. 

The symptoms of the bladder condition are easy to recognize. They include:

  • Uncomfortable urine sensations – stinging, burning, or aching when peeing.

  • Overactive bladder – needing to urinate more often than usual.

  • Change in urine color and smell – the urine becomes cloudy, dark, and smelly.

  • Stomach or bladder pain – the lower area becomes sensitive, triggering pelvic pain.

  • Exhaustion – feeling unwell, tired, or sick.

  • Blood in urine – the pee that comes from the urinary tract – urethra, bladder, or kidneys, carries a little blood. The urine appears red, pink, or cola-colored. This is also a typical symptom of bladder cancer

Then, there are the interstitial cystitis symptoms. You shouldn’t confuse IC with simple cystitis. Roughly 700,000 to 1 million Americans have interstitial cystitis. This chronic condition causes constant bladder discomfort and pain. And also affects the pelvic floor

Urinating with IC causes frequent pain. Since the bladder wall becomes irritated and inflamed, the amount of urine that comes out causes stiffening and scarring of the bladder. 

The IC symptoms vary from person to person. They can range from mild pressure to moderate discomfort, tenderness, and severe pelvic and bladder pain.

The intensity of the pain changes as the patient empties or fills the bladder. That’s why it is not uncommon to experience pain during intercourse

IC is also linked with other chronic illnesses and pain syndromes like irritable bowel syndrome, vulvar vestibulitis, and fibromyalgia.  

What Could Be the Reason for These Urinary Problems?

A urinary tract infection can happen from an infection or damage to the bladder. According to 2021 research, most acute uncomplicated cystitis in women is stirred up by Escherichia coli (86%). 

E. coli is present all around us; in our food, environment, and even the intestine of animals and humans. The majority of urinary troubles occur when infections get through the urethra, and into the bladder. They then multiply and spark a urinary tract infection. 

Other than bacteria, these causes can also lead to cystitis. They include:

  • Having sex or friction

  • Relying on a diaphragm for contraception

  • Wiping from back to front after urinating

  • Using chemical irritants that the skin can’t handle, like bubble baths or perfumed soaps

  • Bladder tissue damage from a recent surgery

  • Being on chemo or radiotherapy for pelvic treatment

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What Makes the Body Susceptible to Cystitis?

A couple of factors could increase the likelihood of developing this particular urinary tract infection. Having trouble with bladder capacity can lead to a bladder infection. 

Bladder stones can be a springboard for blockages in the urinary pathways. A bladder stone features just 5% of all urinary tract stones. But, it is responsible for 8% of mortality from kidney stone disease in developed countries. The rates are even higher in developing nations. 

Pregnancy can add more fuel to the fire. It prompts pressure on the bladder. Based on a recent study, 31.3% of pregnant women experienced mild urinary incontinence. 59.7% had moderate urinary problems, and 9% had severe urine leaks. For many, these urinary troubles happened a couple of times a day. 

In men, having an enlarged prostate can make them vulnerable to cystitis. The enlargement gets worse with age. It can eventually lead to bladder infection and damage.

Menopause is another contributor. Research shows that UTI recurrence rates range from 16% to 36% in premenopausal women. But get to a staggering 55% after menopause. Since menopause disrupts the natural bacteria balance in the vagina, it could also make it susceptible to bacterial infection. This includes bladder inflammation. The urethra becomes exposed to an infection that can eventually spread towards the bladder. In some cases, it can cause bacterial cystitis. 

Diabetes is another problem that stirs the pot for acute cystitis or interstitial cystitis. The increased blood sugar creates a breeding ground for bacteria. That’s why the bladder becomes susceptible to cystitis and other urinary problems. With proper antibiotics and blood sugar control, diabetes patients can reduce the occurrence of UTI. 

When Is the Right Time to Ask for Help? 

If cystitis doesn’t go away on its own in over four days, then talk with a doctor. If left unmanaged, it could prompt a kidney infection. 

So, if you are worried you might be dealing with interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome, it is best to get a diagnosis. Contact a urologist or nephrologist. They specialize in treating urinary tract disorders. 

If you don’t have a specialist, consult with a primary care provider first. They can recommend an expert for your urinary tract issues. They can suggest antibiotics to keep the bladder pain syndrome in check or manage the UTI. 


When booking a doctor’s appointment, you will talk about your medical history and UTI symptoms

The doctor will then suggest one of the following tests:

  • Cystoscopy – Based on reports, over 173,000 women and more than 286,000 men had a cystoscopy in 2014. A doctor inserts a thin tube with a camera to observe the urinary tract for a UTI. 

  • Urine sample – Often known as the primary diagnostic option, urine analysis can help identify pus, bacteria, or blood in the urine. 

  • Imaging – If the doctor can’t find any signs of an infection, then they could suggest ultrasound or X-ray. But, this is best left for finding serious structural abnormalities, like a tumor, for example. 

  • Pelvic exam – In interstitial cystitis, doctors suggest a detailed examination of the pelvic organs and external genitals. This includes the rectum and anus. This is a go-to choice for IC patients. 

What’s the Right Treatment Strategy?

The treatment varies based on the type of cystitis. If the urinary tract has bacterial cystitis, antibiotics are at the forefront of adequate treatment. They are the “bread and butter” of treating any kind of UTI. 

These options include nitrofurantoin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, oral phenazopyridine, etc. But, the drugs used will depend on how often you had the infection, how often it occurs, and whether it caused serious pain. 

Interstitial cystitis requires medication, nerve stimulation, and bladder manipulation. Patients can either consume the tablets or insert them into the bladder. 

Nerve stimulation uses controlled electrical pulses that ease the aches and relieve the pressure on the urinary pathways. Bladder manipulation, like stretching the bladder with gas, water, or surgery, can help the urinary tract. 

Doctors also use bladder instillation. Studies indicate that instillation proved to be an efficient treatment for 48.4% of patients with IC compared to conventional therapy. During treatment, a doctor inserts a solution into the bladder via a catheter and releases the solution after a short time. The wash can assist the urinary tract by increasing the capacity of the bladder and relaxing the muscles. 

But, to establish better urinary control, bladder retraining can help. Patients get to control their urge to urinate and calm the aches. 

Home Remedies For Temporary Relief

Cystitis can cause a lot of pain. What you can do is try to ease the symptoms without irritating the skin. 

A couple of at-home tactics can help do the trick. These include:

  • Staying hydrated – The more water you drink, the easier it is for the body to dilute the urine. That means it can flush out the bacteria quicker even when the urinary tract experiences serious discomfort. 

  • Avoiding irritants – Some products like deodorants, lotions, soaps, and spermicides can irritate the skin. When you avoid using them, you can reduce the symptoms and possibly prevent a cystitis recurrence. 

  • Using a heating pad – Heating pads are a practical option for curbing the pain, especially in the lower abdomen. But, it also relieves the pressure on the bladder, making it easier to function. Women use a heating pad to curb bladder spasms, cramps, and menstrual pain.

Complications from Cystitis

If you receive proper and on-time treatment, this kind of UTI rarely triggers complications. But, if it turns into a serious infection and you don’t manage it, then complications can occur. 

They include:

  • Blood in the urine – Cystitis causes blood cells to come out with the urine. This rarely happens in people with uncomplicated cystitis. But, it can occur with more complex infections or due to chemo-induced cystitis. 

  • Kidney damage and infection – When a patient ignores their UTI for a long time, it can spread to the kidneys and damage these organs. 


UTI can happen to anyone. Cystitis is one of those types of UTI that often develop. However, if you learn to recognize the problem, you can seek adequate treatment. Although the infection is not always a cause for concern for the urinary pathways, you should still keep it under control. 

Talk with a doctor if cystitis lasts more than four days. If the condition drastically impacts the urinary tract, then you will receive proper medication. With fast action, you can avoid complications.


UTIs rarely go unnoticed. 

Because of how many people are struggling with these infections, you can picture their impact. 

Cystitis is a type of UTI that affects hundreds of thousands of women and men. 

It can get in the way of their daily routines, trigger aches and discomfort. 

With the at-home treatments listed here, you can keep those issues at bay. 

For medication therapy, be sure to consult with a specialist. 

Next Up

how to prevent uti

Find out 9 Ways To Prevent A UTI.


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