Bladder infection

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bladder infection.

Bladder infections can be caused by:

  • not emptying your bladder properly – for example, because of pregnancy or an enlarged prostate
  • damage or irritation around the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body)
  • bacteria being transferred from the anus to the urethra – for example, during sex

Read more about the causes of cystitis.

Symptoms of cystitis include:

  • an urgent and often need to urinate
  • pain or stinging when you urinate
  • pain in the bladder

When to see your GP

The symptoms of cystitis can also be caused by other conditions, so children and men should always see their GP if they have symptoms of cystitis.

Women should see their GP if they experience the symptoms of cystitis for the first time. They should also return to their GP if they have cystitis more than three times in one year.

Find out more about how cystitis is diagnosed.

Cystitis in women

Cystitis is more common in women because women have a short urethra. The urethra's opening is also located very close to the anus (bottom), which makes it easy for bacteria from the anus to reach the bladder and cause an infection.

Almost all women will have cystitis at least once in their lifetime. Around one in five women who have had cystitis will get it again (known as recurrent cystitis). Cystitis can occur at any age, but it is more common in:

  • pregnant women
  • sexually active women
  • women who have been through the menopause

Cystitis in men

Cystitis is less common in men. It can be more serious in men because it could be caused by:

  • an underlying bladder or prostate infection, such as prostatitis
  • an obstruction in the urinary tract, such as a tumour or an enlarged prostate (the gland located between the penis and the bladder)

Male cystitis is not usually serious if treated quickly, but it can be very painful. Men who have unprotected anal sex are slightly more at risk of cystitis.

Treating cystitis

Mild cystitis usually clears up within a few days. You can treat it at home by drinking plenty of water and taking painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. It can also help if you do not have sex until it's cleared up as sex can make cystitis worse.

More severe cystitis may need treatment with antibiotics.

Read more information about how cystitis is treated and preventing cystitis.

Untreated bladder infections can cause kidney infections.

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