Mainly affects women, principally because the female urethra is short and easily invaded by bacteria and other microbes present in bowel, vagina, and vulval area. In men, cystitis is usually secondary to Prostate Problems, Bladder Tumours, Bladder Stones, or congenial abnormality of the bladder or urethra.
The term 'cystitis' is often used, rather loosely, to describe three different conditions which have similar symptoms: a frequent urge to urinate, and scanty urine which smells strongly and stings or scalds as it is passed, and may have blood in it; sometimes there may be a dull ache in the lower abdomen.
Inflammation of the bladder due to infection, usually by E. coli bacteria transferred from the bowel; it is particularly common in the early stages of pregnancy, and attacks tend to recur.
Chronic irritation of the bladder and urethra due to causes other than bacterial infection; antibiotics, certain contraceptives, hormone imbalances caused by Stress or fear, diet, food Allergy, hygiene, clothing, urination patterns, intercourse, and bruising of the urethra during intercourse have all been cited as possible causes.
Inflammation of the urethra only, occasionally due to infection (see Non-Specific Urethritis in Sexually Transmitted Diseases) but more often to bruising during intercourse; it lasts for 2 or 3 days at most, and is common in women who have just started to have intercourse.
May be due to a condition known as interstitial cystitis, with burning abdominal pain, constant pressure and discomfort in the bladder, chronic frequency day and night, with temporary relief from passing urine. It can be associated with urethral vaginal or vulval pain or tenderness.
Though it poses lithe risk to general health, cystitis should be treated. If an attack lasts for more than 48 hours, see your medical doctor. The standard weapon of orthodox medicine is antibiotics, and urine analysis if the condition recurs; some of the self-help methods given below may also be recommended. The homeopathic approach to recurrent attacks is constitutional, although the remedies given below will relieve symptoms in isolated flare-ups.
Specific remedies to be taken every ½ hour for up to 10 doses
- Burning, cutting pains in lower abdomen too severe to ignore, non-stop urge to urinate, ache in small of back tends to get worse in afternoon, merest trickle of urine with blood in it, inability to empty bladder properly Cantharis 30c
- Frequent and painful urging with little result Nux 30c
- Sharp, stinging pains in lower abdomen, frequent urge to urinate, urine scanty, hot and bloody, symptoms seem worse for heat and better for cold Apis 30c
- Burning sensation along urethra, bladder sensitive to jarring, urine bright red with little clots of blood in it, urging persists even after urine has been passed Belladonna 30c
- High fever, excruciating pain in bladder area, bladder swollen and hard, feeling extremely restless, great sense of hurry Tarentula 30c
- Urine slimy, with mucus in it, burning, radiating pains which get worse during and after passing urine, and during rest Berberis 30c
- Frequent urge to pass urine, made worse by coughing and sneezing, acute sensitivity to cold, obeying urge produces nothing but is followed, 15 minutes later, by involuntary passage of urine, itching around urethral opening, perhaps with vaginal discharge Causticum 30c
- Attack comes on after getting damp and cold after exertion, especially in autumn, urine bloody and frequent Dulcamara 30c
- Pains come on as urination ceases, urine thick and milky-looking, urgency and pressure to pass urine, feeling thirsty Sarsaparilla 30c
- Frequency and burning sensation as urine is passed, with pain in small of back, blood in urine, drowsiness, tingling in ears, tongue red and shiny, rest makes symptoms worse but walking in open air alleviates them Terebinth 30c
- Attack comes on after sexual intercourse or after catheterization for an operation, urethra feels as if a drop of urine is continuously trickling along it, burning sensation almost constant, even when not passing water Staphysagria 30c
- Stream of urine slow and intermittent Clematis 30c
- Burning pains in lower abdomen, feeling restless, chilly, and anxious Arsenicum 30c
- Pain worse at start of urination, no urine passed despite intense and urgent straining, muscles at base of bladder in spasm, cold makes symptoms worse Camphora 30c
If an attack has been brought on by fear or stress, the Bach Flower Remedies Mimulus and Aspen may be helpful.
Self-help: There is a lot you can do for yourself in an acute attack of cystitis. To reduce acidity of urine - responsible for the stinging and scalding - and to flush infected urine out of bladder as quickly as possible, drink 0.25 litre (½ pint) cold water, barley water, or water with bicarbonate of soda in it every 20 minutes. Don’t overdo the bicarbonate - 1 teaspoon per hour for up to 3 hours only is the maximum you should take; if you have a heart condition, stick to plain water or barley water. Curling up with a hot-water bottle or ice-pack clasped to the lower abdomen also offers relief.
There are also a number of preventive measures you can take, whether you suffer from cystitis, urethral syndrome, or urethritis.
Never suppress the urge to urinate; try to develop the habit of emptying the bladder every 4 hours, and do it twice each time to make sure the bladder is completely empty.
Fluid Intake and Diet
Increase fluid intake to 3 litres (5 pints) per day, or until urine is a normal colour and there is no discomfort on passing urine. Tea, coffee, and alcohol are a not good idea, except perhaps twice a week. The more alkaline your urine the better; a daily bowl of vegetable broth, or a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda taken in water twice a day, or a daily glass of Mist. Pot. Cit., obtainable from the chemist, will achieve this. Alkaline urine turns pink litmus paper blue, so buy some litmus from the chemist and test it.
Foods known to aggravate cystitis and related conditions are asparagus, spinach, beetroot, raw carrots, potatoes and tomatoes, citrus fruits and strawberries, red meat, milk and ice-cream, condiments, junk food in general; chlorinated water and alcohol are also aggravating. Aduki beans are said to be beneficial.
In her invaluable book on cystitis, Angela Kilmartin recommends the following cleansing routine after every bowel movement.
- Wipe bottom from front to back with soft white toilet paper.
- Wash hands
- Soap hands with non-perfumed soap and wash anal area (not vaginal area) with fingers
- Rinse hands
- Fill a small bottle with warm water, sit back on lavatory, and our water down past urethral opening and vagina, using free hand to wash out nooks and crannies.
- When all traces of soap have been washed away, pat dry with a soft towel kept only for that purpose.
This method uses only hands, unscented soap, and the flow of clean water to clean anal and vulval area; using flannels, cloths, or cotton wool is not recommended - they only harbour germs. Nor are bidets or squatting in the bath and douching with the shower - that way germs may spread or be forced up the urethra. Nor are vaginal deodorants, vaginal douches, medicated creams, bath oils, bath salts, bubble baths, talcum powder, or antiseptics like Dettol - all of which can irritate the skin. If possible, tampons should be avoided too.
If possible have a drink of water and empty the bladder before intercourse. Be as relaxed as possible and spin out time spent in foreplay. Use KY jelly as a lubricant, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different positions to see if these relive pressure on bladder or urethra. After intercourse, empty bladder and wash away semen using the bottle-of-warm-water technique described above. The man should wash his hands and penis before intercourse. Since long finger nails harbour germs, both partners should keep nails short.
Swap nylon underwear for cotton, and nylon tights for those with a cotton gusset, and change them every day. Wash them in pure soap - never with biological washing powders or bleach - and rinse them thoroughly.
These should be avoided in cystitis unless absolutely necessary, as they tend to promote thrush (see Vaginal and Vulval Problems). If a course of antibiotics is necessary - for example, if other measures have failed or if there is Fever, indicating that infection may be spreading- eat a small carton of natural yoghurt every day for 5 days as soon as the course finishes. This helps to re-populate the body with the healthy bacteria which the antibiotics destroyed along with the undesirables.