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Cystitis, a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), is characterised by inflammation of the bladder. It is more of a nuisance than a serious concern, causing many women to seek fast and effective treatment.

Cystitis affects more women than men. This is due to the fact that women have a smaller proximity between the urethra and back passage - making it easier for bacteria to infect the bladder.

Cystitis can occur suddenly (acute) or as a result of a chronic case that affects multiple layers of the bladder. The latter case is called interstitial cystitis (IC).


Most symptoms of cystitis go away between 4 to 9 days. However, many women seek antibiotic treatment to treat their symptoms faster as cystitis can be painful and debilitating. Some of the common symptoms of cystitis include:

  • Pain when urinating, sometimes accompanied by burning or stinging
  • Urinating more 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

Though a mild condition, cystitis may spread to your kidneys. When it does, watch out for the following symptoms as this is a serious health issue:

  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Pain in your back or sides

Fever or blood in the urine may also be caused by something more serious than a bladder infection. Seek medical attention as soon as possible if you have concerns.


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, in a worst-case scenario, cancer.

There are many possible causes of cystitis. These include:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Irritating hygiene products
  • Use of a catheter
  • Radiation
  • Taking certain medications

Acute and interstitial cystitis can be caused by a variety of factors. We have categorised these factors below in order to help you understand the causes in more depth:


Bacterial Cystitis happens when bacteria enters the urethra and infects your bladder. The most common type of bacteria responsible for this type of cystitis is e-coli. Around 80% of urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria from the bowel that reach your urinary tract.

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 between the urethra and 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

The likelihood of bacterial cystitis is heightened by sexual activity but it is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.


Radiation therapy does not only kill cancer cells and tumours - it can also damage healthy cells. If you’ve had radiation treatment in your pelvic area, your chances of getting an inflamed bladder are high.


The majority of medicines you consume will leave the body through your urinary system. Some medications like chemotherapy drugs (i.e. ifosfamide and cyclophosphamide) can irritate your bladder when passing through.


Chemical cystitis is caused by hygiene products like feminine sprays, bubble bath chemicals, and spermicidal jellies. Over or improper use of these products can lead to irritation and infection.


Foreign body cystitis is usually caused by the ongoing use of a catheter - a tube used to facilitate the release of urine from the bladder. Using a catheter increases your risks of developing a bacterial infection and damaging surrounding tissue.


Mild cystitis goes away on its own over time. However, if your symptoms are affecting your daily life, you can seek treatment for cystitis from Express Pharmacy.

Lifestyle changes to prevent and treat cystitis include drinking lots of water, drinking cranberry juice, improving personal hygiene, and wearing more breathable underwear. You can also apply heat pads to your back or lower abdomen to relieve uncomfortable symptoms.

Using over the counter pain relievers can also help alleviate the symptoms of cystitis. We currently stock Trimethoprim tablets and Nitrofurantoin - both Cystitis medications are designed to kill bacteria commonly associated with urinary tract infections.


Cystitis is more common in women than in men. Between 20 and 40% of women will experience cystitis at some point in their lifetime, and one in five women live with recurrent cystitis. Every year, over 4 million women in the UK develop the infection. It’s particularly common in women who are postmenopausal, pregnant or sexually active.

Although not as common in men, those with an enlarged prostate have a higher risk of developing cystitis because of the retention of urine in the bladder.


Although easy to treat, it’s worth taking measures to prevent cystitis from coming back:

Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water, urinating frequently, and avoiding tight underwear can help reduce your risk of cystitis.

Wipe Properly: Always wipe from front to back after moving your bowel. Remember that most urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria from the bowel that reach your urinary tract.

Wash Carefully: Proper hygiene like washing the skin around the vagina and anus regularly is also a good preventive measure. Just be careful not to use harsh soaps and avoid washing too vigorously. It’s also strongly advised to avoid using feminine products in the genital area.

Use Catheters Correctly: For catheter users, ask your doctor or nurse about the best way to change a catheter without damaging any tissues in your urinary tract.


Cystitis, by itself, is not life-threatening; but it can be a nuisance to deal with. Browse our cystitis treatments on this page or get in touch with us to see how we can help improve your symptoms.