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What is cystitis?

Cystitis is a common urinary tract infection (UTI) that primarily affects women, though it can develop in men on occasions. The infection is more common in women due to the proximity of the opening of the urethra to the back passage, meaning it’s easier for bacteria to infect the bladder.

Between 20 and 40 per cent of women will experience cystitis at some point in their lifetime, and one in five women live with recurrent cystitis. Every year, over 2 million women in the UK develop the infection. It’s particularly common in women who are postmenopausal, pregnant or sexually active.

There are two kinds of cystitis: bacterial and interstitial. Bacterial cystitis is the most common form of the infection, whilst interstitial cystitis is rarer and often longer-lasting. It is caused by inflammation.

What are the symptoms of cystitis?

Cystitis is usually mild and lasts between 4 and 9 days. However, many women seek antibiotic treatment in order to treat their symptoms faster, as the condition can be painful and debilitating.

The signs of cystitis are usually very similar for most women. The main symptoms of the infection include:

  • Pain when urinating, sometimes accompanied by burning or stinging
  • Urinating more frequently and feeling the need to urinate frequently
  • Abdominal and stomach pain
  • A change in urine colour, often resulting in it becoming cloudy, dark and stronger smelling
  • Blood in the urine, making it slightly pink
  • Cold-like symptoms, including achiness, nausea and lethargy

What causes cystitis?

Because the urethra is much shorter in the female anatomy, cystitis is much more common in women. In men, the infection can be linked to more serious conditions such as kidney or prostate infections and cancer.

Bacterial cystitis occurs when external bacteria finds its way into the urinary tract and multiplies, resulting in an infection. Usually, the e-coli strand is responsible. Although bacterial cystitis is often heightened by sexual activity, it is not an STI.

Interstitial cystitis is caused by inflammation, although there is currently no conclusive evidence surrounding what causes this inflammation, making it difficult to diagnose.

Factors that can play a part in the development of bacterial cystitis include:

  • Underwear — tight underwear can spread bacteria to the opening of the urethra
  • Hygiene — the proximity of the urethra to the anal passage means unkempt hygiene can lead to a build-up of bacteria
  • Diabetes — diabetics tend to have high sugar content in their urine, meaning bacteria can grow more easily
  • A full bladder — residual urine can increase the amount of bacteria present

How can you treat cystitis?

When cystitis is mild, the infection will pass on its own over time. Changing habits such as wearing more breathable underwear and improving personal hygiene can help the infection pass, as can drinking lots of fluids.

In more serious cases and among women who find cystitis to be a recurring problem, antibiotic cystitis medication represents a reliable and effective treatment. At Express Pharmacy we stock Trimethoprim, a medication designed to tackle forms of bacteria most commonly associated with UTIs.

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Please note though, that we won’t refund the difference in price paid if you could have bought the product more cheaply with an online-only retailer: examples of this include chemistdirect.co.uk, who sell only through their websites or mail order and not via high street shops. We also don’t match competitors who are in administration or closing down.

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