Bladder Inflammation (Cystitis)
What is a bladder infection (cystitis)?
Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder that’s generally caused by a bacterial infection. Bladder infections occur when bacteria from the area between the vagina/penis and rectum (called the perineum) enter the urethra and travel into the bladder.
Bladder infections are the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs can occur in any part of the urinary tract — in the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra. They account for more than 8.1 million visits to health care providers every year. Approximately 60% of women and 12% of men will have at least one UTI during their lifetime.
How common are bladder infections?
Bladder infections are very common, especially in women. Approximately 60% of women will experience a bladder infection during their lifetime. And these infections may recur: Between 20% and 40% of women who have a bladder infection will experience at least another in their lifetime. Men are less likely to get bladder infections because of differences in their anatomy.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes a bladder infection?
A bladder infection is usually caused by bacteria entering the urethra and multiplying in your bladder. The most common type of bacteria is Escherichia coli (E. coli).
There are factors that increase the risk of bladder infections. These include:
- Anatomical abnormalities of the urinary tract.
- Using a catheter.
- Using spermicides.
- Multiple sexual partners.
What are the symptoms of bladder inflammation (cystitis)?
The symptoms of a bladder infection are similar to what you will feel when you have a urinary tract infection (UTI). These symptoms can include:
- Frequent urination: You may feel the need to urinate more often. Some people also experience urgency (sudden desire to pee).
- Pain/ burning with urination: During an infection, you may experience discomfort in pain in the suprapubic area and burning during urination.
- Dark or foul-smelling pee.
Other symptoms that can be linked to a more serious kidney infection include:
Diagnosis and Tests
How is this condition diagnosed?
If you think you have a bladder infection you should talk with your healthcare provider. To help diagnose a bladder inflammation (cystitis), you will typically be asked for a urine sample. Your urine will be collected in a sterile (clean) cup in a restroom at your provider’s office. You may want to avoid peeing right before your appointment so that you’ll be able to provide a sample during your office visit. Your provider will most likely do two tests on your urine: a urinalysis and a urine culture.
- Urinalysis: This test involves checking the appearance, concentration and content of urine.
- Urine culture: This test determines the type of bacteria causing the infection and to which antibiotics the bacteria is sensitive.
Your healthcare provider may also order additional testing if you continue to get bladder infections including an imaging test to look at your kidneys and a cystoscopy, which uses a special scope to look inside the bladder.
Management and Treatment
How is a bladder inflammation treated?
A bladder infection is typically treated with antibiotics. Your healthcare provider will prescribe an antibiotic based on the type of bacteria found during your urine tests. In order to adequately treat the infection, it’s important to take all of the antibiotics your provider prescribes.
Some commonly used antibiotics include:
- Sulfonamides (sulfa drugs).
- Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim®).
- Quinolones, such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro®).
How can I prevent bladder inflammation (cystitis)?
You can often prevent a bladder infection by adopting some good lifestyle practices. These practices include:
- Practice good hygiene habits: Make sure you have good hygiene habits (wiping front to back) and aggressively treat constipation or diarrhea.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Increase your fluid intake to help flush bacteria out of your bladder.
- Estrogen cream for postmenopausal women: When women go through menopause, their vaginal tissue changes and the good vaginal bacteria that normally colonize the vagina cannot survive. Bacteria can colonize, which causes bladder infections. To reestablish the good bacteria, you may need topical estrogen cream. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether topical estrogen cream is right for you.
- Changing birth control: You may also want to change your birth control option if you have frequent bladder infections and UTIs. Women who use diaphragms and spermicide are at greater risk of infection. You should also use a water-based lubricant during sex if needed.
- Supplements: There are over-the-counter supplements (D-mannose and cranberry) that can help prevent infections in your urinary tract. If you have frequent UTIs and bladder infections, talk to your healthcare provider about these options and make a plan about the best ways to prevent infections.
Outlook / Prognosis
What’s the outlook for bladder inflammation (cystitis)?
Your bladder inflammation should improve as your body responds to a short course of antibiotics. It's important to complete your prescription even if your symptoms get better. Stopping your medication early could lead to the infection coming back.
When should I call my doctor about a bladder infection?
If you experience the symptoms of a bladder infection or urinary tract infection, call your healthcare provider to discuss a treatment plan.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Bladder infections are common urinary tract infections. You might feel pain and burning when you pee, as well as the urge to pee more frequently than you normally do. If you have these inflammatory symptoms, call your healthcare provider. You should start to feel better after a few days of antibiotic treatment, but it’s important to finish the entire prescription so the infection doesn’t return.
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