Recognize and properly treat cystitis

Burning and painful urination - many women are familiar with these symptoms of cystitis. Sometimes home remedies are sufficient for treatment of acute cystitis, in other cases antibiotics must be used

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Cystitis - in a nutshell

Burning sensation when urinating, abdominal pain, and frequent urination may all indicate a bladder infection. Antibiotics are not always necessary. In mild, uncomplicated cases, home medication or pain relievers may suffice. Basically, men, children and pregnant women with cystitis should see a doctor. In addition, everyone who suffers from recurring bladder infections, has diabetes or takes medication that weakens the immune system. If the symptoms persist for more than three days or if you have a fever, you will need to see a doctor.

What is a cystitis?

Many people know from their own experience: a cystitis is painful. Men are rarely affected, whereas according to surveys, more than one in three women suffers from the disease, which doctors call cystitis, one or more times in their lifetime.

Cystitis is usually an infection of the urinary tract with bacteria; viruses, parasites or fungi are rarely involved. The germs usually get into the bladder from outside via the urethra, where they cause inflammation and irritation of the bladder wall. A cold and a weakened immune defense - for example due to other diseases - favor the infection.

Doctors differentiate:

• The uncomplicated cystitis:
This is an infection of the bladder in a patient who has no risk factors for the condition.

• Difficult cystitis:
A cystitis in a patient with risk factors that make the condition worse. These include, for example

- immune system weakness or immunosuppression caused by medication
- Urinary congestion and narrowing of the urinary tract (for example in the case of an enlarged prostate, narrowing of the urethra, urinary stones, tumors ...)
- backflow of urine from the bladder into the ureter (vesico-ureteral reflux)
- bladder dysfunction (for example with nerve disorders)

Home remedies are a good therapy for mild, uncomplicated urinary tract infections: keep warm and drink enough - preferably bladder and kidney teas. In complicated cases, previous illnesses such as diabetes mellitus or during pregnancy, you should definitely consult a doctor. Usually the treatment is then carried out with antibiotics.

If left untreated, complications can arise, such as inflammation of the kidney pelvis.

Video: what is cystitis

The most common cause of bladder infections: Escherichia coli

© ddp Images / Axel Kock

causes

The most common cause of a bladder infection is Escherichia coli bacteria. They are part of the normal human intestinal flora. If you mistakenly clean your bowels from back to front after a bowel movement, they can get from the anus into the urethra and from there into the bladder.

Other pathogens causing cystitis are, for example, Proteus mirabilis, staphylococci, streptococci, klebsiae or fungi such as the yeast Candida albicans. In rare cases, viruses or parasites can also irritate the bladder.

Occasionally, a cystitis can be caused by other causes than germs. For example, cystitis can occur as a side effect of certain drugs or radiation.

In men, an inflammation of the bladder is almost always accompanied by inflammation of the prostate, or acute or chronic inflammation of the prostate triggers the subsequent inflammation of the bladder.

Obviously, bladder infections mainly affect women

© W & B / Ulrike Möhle

Risk factors

Bladder infections are most common in women. This is probably due, among other things, to the short urethra in women (about 4 centimeters as opposed to 20 to 25 centimeters in men) and the proximity of the urethral outlet to the anus.
Cystitis is also favored by:

  • Immune system weakness and certain metabolic disorders (e.g. diabetes)
  • Sexual intercourse: Honeymoon cystitis (English: "honeymoon cystitis") is a winking term for a cystitis in young and sexually active women. Because even during sexual intercourse, bacteria can get into the urethra and from there into the bladder.
  • Pregnancy: The hormonal balance changes during pregnancy. An unpleasant consequence of this is that the urinary tract dilates and germs can therefore more easily penetrate the urethra.
  • Urinary congestion or residual urine in the bladder: Urinary congestion can have various causes. Among other things, an enlarged prostate, narrowing of the urethra, urinary stones or a tumor can narrow the urinary tract and prevent the urine from draining properly or completely. Bladder dysfunction, which occurs, for example, in diseases of the nervous system and paraplegia, can hinder the emptying of the bladder. If the urine builds up or a "pool of urine" forms at the bottom of the bladder, bacteria find an ideal breeding ground in it. Recurring urinary tract infections can be the result.
  • Indwelling catheters: They cause mechanical irritation of the bladder. In addition, they create an open connection from the urinary tract to the outside and thus enable bacteria to enter the urethra.

Symptoms: how does a bladder infection manifest itself?

Typical signs of a bladder infection are pain and burning sensation when urinating, frequent urination and pain in the abdomen. The urine can be cloudy and change its smell. Blood in the urine is also possible.

Complications

A bladder infection can rise up through the ureters and then affect the kidneys. Without appropriate therapy, inflammation of the renal pelvis and kidneys (pyelonephritis) can lead to permanent kidney damage.

Untreated urinary tract inflammation during pregnancy can more easily ascend into the kidneys. This can potentially trigger premature labor and thus lead to premature birth or miscarriage.