CYSTITIS (BLADDER INFECTION) AND URINARY
What is it?
Cystitis or bladder infection (also known as simple urinary tract infection), results when
bacteria gain access to the bladder (a sack-like organ in the pelvis that collects urine from
the kidneys). Normally, the bladder doesn’t contain bacteria—the urine inside you is usually
sterile. But bacteria typically present in the vagina and genital areas can get into the bladder
by way of the urethra, a small tube which connects your bladder to the outside of your body.
In women, the urethra is very short and has its opening near the vagina. Because of these
two factors, bladder infections are common in women. Men seldom develop cystitis.
What are the symptoms?
• frequent urination, usually in small amounts
• uncontrolled dribbling of urine
• urgency to urinate
• pain or burning on urination
• pressure or cramps in the lower abdomen on urination
• bad-smelling or cloudy urine
• blood in the urine, or darkened urine
• painful intercourse
• fever, and sometimes sweats or chills
• pain in the mid-back (to either side of the spine)
What are the risks?
A simple UTI or bladder infection isn’t dangerous if treated promptly. If left untreated,
however, the bacteria can migrate up your urinary tract to the kidney and produce a serious,
life-threatening infection. Pain or tenderness in the lower back, fever, chills, nausea or
vomiting, and a general feeling of being sick suggest a kidney infection. Contact your family
doctor or go to a hospital emergency room if these symptoms develop. If you’ve had more
that 3 UTIs in a year you may have a problem that requires further evaluation by a specialist.
How is it diagnosed and treated?
Cystitis is confirmed by a urine test. Sometimes a urine culture will be done to identify the
type of bacteria involved. You may also have a physical exam with special attention to your
lower abdomen, a genital/pelvic exam, and tests for sexually transmitted infections.
Treatment involves one or more antibiotics. Remember to tell your doctor if you are
pregnant or have allergies or other medical conditions that might interfere with
How do I take my medication?
1. Be sure you understand clearly how to take any medication you’re prescribed.
2. Finish it completely, even if you feel better before it’s all gone.
3. Call your doctor if you
• have blood in your urine after taking your medication for 3 days
• don’t feel better after 3 days of taking your medication
• feel worse at any time
• develop back pain, fever, or chills – further testing may be necessary to
determine a better treatment
• think you may be allergic to your medication
How can I avoid UTIs in future?
• Drink fluids to keep your urinary system flushed – at least 8 glasses of water a day
• Urinate as soon as you need to – don’t hold it
• Take time to strain and empty your bladder
• Urinate before and after intercourse
• Wipe from front to back after urination or a bowel movement. Avoid touching or putting
objects in your vagina after they’ve been in or around your anus or rectum
• If you use a diaphragm and have frequent bladder infections, the problem may be the
spermicide you use with the diaphragm. Talk to your clinician for recommendations. The
problem may also be the fit – have it rechecked for proper fit
• Avoid foods and drinks that might irritate your bladder:
coffee, tea carbonated drinks
tomato juice alcohol
apple juice chocolate
What if I have sex and don’t use Birth Control?
Did you know that …for up to 120 hours (5 days) … after sex, you can take emergency pills to avoid
becoming pregnant? (The sooner they are taken after an episode of unprotected intercourse the more
effective they are)…AND for 7 days…after sex, you can have an IUD put in, so you won’t become
pregnant. Not all doctors know about this. IF you need to know more or would like the phone
numbers of doctors or clinics near you that have emergency birth control, call the Facts of Life line
1-800-739-7367 or 604-731-7803 in the lower mainland.