Here I share my personal experience and what I've learned about managing and preventing cystitis.
What Is Cystitis?
I will say straight away that I am not a medical person. I am, however, a knowledgeable victim of cystitis, or urinary tract infection (UTI)—and if you read on you will see why this is not necessarily a bad thing!
Cystitis is a term that refers to urinary bladder inflammation resulting from any one of a number of distinct syndromes, including closely related urethritis, a swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the urethra. Cystitis is sometimes called honeymoon cystitis, or the honeymoon disease. While this popular name may be an apt description of one of the causes of cystitis, it fails to convey the misery attached to the condition. Acute cystitis is extremely painful.
Cystitis/urethritis (inflammation or infection of the bladder or urethra) is one of those rather nebulous conditions with several possible origins. The most common origin—which is also the most easily treated and (as I eventually found out) the most easily prevented—is infection, either of the bladder or of the urinary tract.
What Causes Cystitis or Urinary Tract Infections in Women?
There are several possible causes of cystitis or UTI in women but the most common one is bacterial infections caused by germs. Germs are introduced into the bladder via the urethra in the following ways:
- From the penis or anus, which arrive in the bladder via the urethra, the tube through which urine is passed. This typically happens during intercourse, inserting tampons or diaphragms or from wiping after using the toilet
- Failure to fully empty the bladder - you may have a blockage or if you are pregnant the baby could be pressing on the bladder
- The introduction of 'foreign bodies' such as a catheter
Other possibilities include:
- Friction, again due to intercourse
- Tight clothing
- Chemical irritation
How common is acute cystitis?
Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms
- Feeling or urgency to urinate (pass water)
- Pain during and after urination (this can vary from a funny tickle to, believe me, very bad indeed)
- Blood and tissues in the urine
- Frequent urination
How to Describe the Pain and Symptoms
Many women suffer from cystitis, feel a tickle or pain, go to the pharmacy and buy something over the counter which will solve the problem. This was not me. This is not 'acute' cystitis. If you think this doesn't match your symptoms, if you think you might have acute cystitis, read on.
The nature of the pain and the level of distress for me was very high. After giving birth to my first child I actually thought, "Well that was not so bad. Not as bad as having cystitis." Now when you go to the doctor, you must convey this level of distress and pain, because they think cystitis in a minor affliction and will try to fob you off. You have to really make them believe that you are not a hypochondriac or a hysterical, attention-seeking woman. Make them see the real level of your problem. If you have blood in the urine, tell them, this makes them take more notice as it is a 'real' symptom, and one they can deal with.
My Own Cystitis Story: Onset
My problems with cystitis started with my first partner. Love, pain, doctors, antibiotics and the same thing again, and again!
I went to the doctor, a nice lady in Edinburgh, described the symptoms, was sent away with a prescription for antibiotics and told to send a urine sample to the laboratory. Being young, trustful and still obliging, I took the antibiotics and sent samples to the lab and all was ok again - until the next attack! Then the whole process was repeated. Back to doctors, antibiotics, next attack. Even at that age, I could see this was not the answer and knew that tackling the cause was the way to the solution. Now, I must say that this was some time ago and long before the Internet, so getting information was not as straightforward as it is now.
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Never-the-less, I persevered with the medics and eventually was told that I could go onto antibiotics permanently or they could perform an operation to reduce the width of my urethra (the tube that carries the urine from the bladder to the outside world).
Celibate for Life or Major Surgery?
OK, I thought, if love = cystitis and the choice is major surgery or permanent medication with antibiotics then I'll choose celibacy—and this at the grand old age of about 25!
But then fate took a rather fortunate turn—after one of my attacks I went to the docs, yet again, and this time there was a young, Indian, male locum standing in for the permanent doctor. I will never forget him (Are you out there? this was Morningside, Edinburgh when you were very very young—a big thank you!) because he provided me with the first piece in the puzzle towards beating cystitis - lubricating jelly!
How to Prevent Cystitis From Occurring
The young locum's advice certainly helped, but wasn't the whole answer. Now I am not superstitious, but I was most fortunate in finding the key to beating cystitis. Those of you who knew London in the 80's will remember Foyles bookstore. This was a warren of a book shop, with rooms and corridors full of books on shelves on floors and scattered so haphazardly throughout the building that when Waterstones arrived their advertising posters read "Foyled again? Try Waterstones".
Anyway, I was entering this iconic store, embarking on a search of something completely different, when, quite by chance, I spotted a tiny, soft-backed booklet simply labelled 'Cystitis' (I think, because, having memorised this book, implemented its suggestions and found that I can manage my condition, of course, I no longer needed it and it is not lost, but gone before). Luckily I took the time to have a look at it, and because it cost so little, I bought it on impulse. Within this slim volume, lay the answer to my problem with cystitis.
So, How Do You Prevent Cystitis Attacks?
This little booklet outlined what to do in order to avoid attacks. Clearly, you can see from the nature of cystitis that there is no cure, only management. So here is what you must do:
- Reduce or minimise trauma (impact), or friction (rubbing) during love making
- Urinate and wash the whole area before 'the act'
- Always wash from the front to the back to avoid 'contamination'
- Tell your partner to wash thoroughly too. Men can be the source of infection. (I am not sure how explicit I can be in HubPages, but it is important that no germs are trapped in the folds of skin. Make sure you explain to your partner that you are trying to avoid germs being introduced into the urethra).
- Use lubricating jelly in order to minimise friction and to block the entrance of the urethra.
- Ask your partner to use the jelly, again to reduce friction.
- Urinate after love making.
- Wipe from front to back when using the toilet
- Obviously, avoid anything that can cause trauma or the introduction of germs into the urethra.
Sorry, but it is clean living, in every sense of the word, is for you from now on!
What to Do If You Have an Attack
- Drink water, and lots of it. Put a pint of water on your desk and keep going until you get to the doctor.
- Add bicarbonate of soda. This is alkaline and is supposed to help the bladder withstand the attack from the bacteria.
- Get to the doctor and get antibiotics fast. If you have a bad attack, like mine, it will not just go away.
- Keep drinking the water!
A Word About Antibiotics
It soon became obvious that the first choice antibiotics were ceasing to have any effect—or provided just temporary relief. It is not uncommon for a trial of several different types of antibiotics to be carried out before an effective one is found.
I Hope This Has Helped You
I realise that this is not really what you want to hear, but surely it is better than the alternative? I hope this has helped. It has enabled me to live a fairly normal life. True, I have to choose sensitive and caring partners, and the cystitis sufferer is certainly dissuaded from embarking on affairs casually. Many people would say this is 'a good thing', but my only motivation in writing this is to save other women from the discomfort that I suffered and the possible years of misery I had to look forward to, had I not come across my locum doctor and that one, tiny pamphlet. Good luck to you!
- BBC Radio 4 - Woman's Hour, Angel Olsen, Long-term UTIs, Virago Press
US folk and indie singer Angel Olsen; treating long-term UTIs; Virago Press; lipstick.
- Bladder Infection (Cystitis): Urinary Tract Infections (UTI): Merck Manual Home Edition
My huband is a doctor and the Merk manual is my health bible. Always my first port of call if I have health worries.
- Cystitis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wikipedia is always a good place to start
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2010 DaisyChain
Please leave your urinary tract infection stories and tips to help others:
DaisyChain (author) from France on February 22, 2017:
It is so very debilitating but I'm so glad to hear that you managed to get rid of it, Cindy. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
cindy02 on February 14, 2017:
I'm 29 years old and I had suffered from cystitis for over 2 years. I had to urinate frequently during the day and night. It's so awkward to find a toilet everywhere because of the urinary frequency and urgency. Every time I went to pee, I could feel the pain and burning. A herbal medicine called diuretic and anti-inflammatory pill helped me get rid of the infection completely. It's really efficient.
Frances Metcalfe on February 04, 2017:
Hi Daisy Chain! Had cystitis years ago and pretty unpleasant it was too, absolutely horrible, hardly knew what to do with myself. I'm one of the fortunates who hasn't had a recurring attack (touch wood), and have so much sympathy for those who do, it's not uncommon. What a helpful article. I'll be straight back on here if it does ever rear its ugly head to refresh my memory of what to do.
john barris on January 31, 2017:
The Lady Soma Cranberry Concentrate tablets is the ONLY product that seems to halt cystitis in its tracks before it becomes unbearable & I have found over the years that if I use it as soon as the first symptoms of an attack appear, I have no need of antibiotics. Unfortunately it is only available online at their website and on Amazon. but is definitely worth the shipping cost.
DaisyChain (author) from France on December 11, 2014:
Thanks for leaving this comment, Joyette. I hope you find it works for you too.
Joyette Helen Fabien from Dominica on November 27, 2014:
Interesting and well presented information. Thanks for sharing. I will share this with my colleagues.
DaisyChain (author) from France on April 21, 2012:
Thank you for leaving this comment, Julie. Exactly as I felt. So grateful to that young, male, Asian doctor who gave me this practical advice. I do hope this works for you too.
Julie Smith on March 23, 2012:
I have this problem. I'm so tired of avoiding sex in case I get an infection afterwards, which I inevitably do. thanks so much for the tip. I hope these measures will help me. Otherwise I might have to become a nun ;-)
DaisyChain (author) from France on May 15, 2011:
Jill, I'm so pleased that you have found this useful and I do hope that it is cleared up. Problem is identifying the cause as it seems to be a tricky complaint which, when acute, isn't taken seriously enough by the medical professionals.
Jill Grant on May 12, 2011:
What interesting information. I have a daughter with this problem and I'm sure she will be happy to hear of something that can help.
DaisyChain (author) from France on March 12, 2011:
DePuy Hip Recall Too true. Many thanks for calling by and leaving these kind words.
DePuy Hip Recall on March 11, 2011:
Indeed, prevention is better than cure. Nice hub by the way Daisy!
DaisyChain (author) from France on March 07, 2011:
Pat, I do hope it helps. It makes life a real misery. I suffered less giving birth to my son than through the cysitis attacks.
Pat on March 07, 2011:
Thank you for the tips. I suffer much too often cystitis myself too. I will try it. Thanks
Les Trois Chenes from Videix, Limousin, South West France on March 19, 2010:
Many thanks for making my first comment, Masumrana.
Masumrana from Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 18, 2010: