Smiling young woman with dark hair, wearing a red shirt, happy after Canesten cystitis treatment

What is cystitis?

Learn what cystitis is, what the symptoms and causes of this urinary tract infection (UTI) are. You can also find out about how to treat cystitis and tips on how to prevent it here.


If you notice that you need to pee more often or experience pain during urination, you might be suffering from cystitis, an inflammation of your bladder.

And it’s not just you: cystitis and other types of urinary tract infections affect around 50-60% of women. In most cases, cystitis occurs when bacteria that live harmlessly in your bowels or on your skin get into the bladder through the tube that carries urine out of your body (urethra). The feeling that you need to urinate more often or having an uncomfortable or and even painful urination are two of the main symptoms letting you know that you may suffer from cystitis, also known as UTI (urinary tract infection).

Normally urination should not be painful, and urine should be the colour of straw. How often and how much you urinate depends on how often, and how much you eat and drink. The European Food Safety Authority recommends that women should drink about 2.0 litres of fluid per day. Taking this into account, in mild climates it's quite normal to produce anything between 800mls and 2.5 litres of urine a day.  

It is not always clear what are the causes of cystitis. Women are more susceptible than men to get cystitis because their anus is closer to their urethra and their urethra is much shorter, so bacteria might get into the bladder more easily. Cystitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection, but it could also be the result of damage or irritation to your bladder (non-infectious cystitis). 

Causes of bladder infection (bacterial cystitis): 

  • Not emptying your bladder fully when you urinate 

  • Using a diaphragm for contraception 

  • Wiping from back to front after going to the toilet (you should wipe front to back) 

Causes of irritation or damage in your bladder and risk factors for developing a bladder infection:

  • Chemicals and perfume in soaps 

  • Radiotherapy to the pelvis

  • Friction from having sex

  • Diabetes 

  • Menopause

Cystitis symptoms

The most common symptoms of cystitis are: pain, burning or stinging when you are urinating, and needing to pee more often and urgently than normal. However, you can also experience other symptoms that can help you recognise if you have cystitis. These are: 

  • Feeling that you can’t fully empty your bladder 

  • Urine that is dark, cloudy or strong smelling 

  • Abdominal pain or backache

  • Feeling generally unwell, achy, sick and tired 

  • Blood in your urine 

Women do not necessarily need to see a doctor if they have cystitis, as mild cases often get better without treatment. However, you should consider seeing a doctor if: 

  • You are experiencing cystitis symptoms for the first time 

  • Your symptoms do not start to improve within 3 days 

  • You suffer from cystitis frequently, more than 3 times a year 

  • You have severe symptoms such as blood in your urine, fever or pain in your side 

  • You are pregnant

Medicines can affect the unborn baby. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine in pregnancy.

Smiling young woman wearing grey T-shirt, happy after Canesten cystitis treatment

Cystitis treatment

Treatment of cystitis depends on the kind of cystitis you have. If it is caused by a bacterial infection, then most likely you need to take antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. If you have had cystitis before or you know your cystitis is non-bacterial and your symptoms are mild, then cystitis may often clear up without any treatment and you can relieve the symptoms with products such as Cystopurin®. Cystopurin® offers effective relief from cystitis symptoms. It reduces the acidity of your urine to help to make it more comfortable for you to urinate while your body tackles the infection.

You should always remember to drink plenty of water and to pee frequently. It is advisable to avoid sex. Remember you should always wipe from front to back when going to the toilet.

Cystitis prevention

The best thing you can do to prevent cystitis is to stay hydrated. If your urine is straw coloured, you're hydrated enough. Dark coloured urine is a sign you need to drink more. Remember to drink between six to eight glasses of water a day, or more if it’s hot or you’ve been working out. The drinks to avoid are: caffeinated, fizzy or alcoholic beverages. They might irritate your bladder and lead to cystitis.

If you get cystitis often, you might consider taking these measures. Good hygiene helps to prevent bacteria from travelling up the urethra and into the bladder, which can help prevent cystitis:

  • Wash your vulva with warm water and gentle products like Canesfresh Intimate Wash. Avoid using perfumed bubble bath, soap or talcum powder around your intimate area. 

  • Always wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet.

  • Change your tampons or pads frequently.

  • Go to the toilet as soon as you need to and always empty your bladder fully. 

  • Empty your bladder fully after sex.

  • Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight jeans and leggings.

Interstitial cystitis

Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome or bladder pain syndrome, is a bladder condition that causes long-term pelvic pain and problems peeing. It is mostly common in women rather than men. It is difficult to say what causes it because there isn’t any noticeable bladder infection so the antibiotics can’t help. The symptoms of interstitial cystitis are: 

  • Intense pelvic pain 

  • Sudden, strong urges to pee 

  • Needing to pee more often than normal 

  • Waking up several times at night to go to the toilet

There is no cure for interstitial cystitis but some lifestyle changes can help relieve the symptoms. These are:

  • Reducing stress and finding ways to relax 

  • Avoiding certain foods and drinks if you notice that they might make your symptoms worse, but speak to your doctor before making significant changes

  • Stop smoking 

  • Controlling how much you drink and drinking less before going to bed 

  • Planning toilet breaks can help your bladder from becoming too full.