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How to prevent Cystitis?

Cystitis is a common urinary tract infection (UTI) which can be embarrassing, uncomfortable and painful.

While it's usually nothing to worry about, cystitis should clear up on its own after a few days, though that doesn't stop it from being a nuisance or preventing you from doing the things you love, such as swimming. It also makes you feel a persistent need to urinate even when their bladder is empty, which can be frustrating.

It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of cystitis and there is no sure-fire way to prevent it; fortunately, there are a number of things you can try which are thought to help keep it at bay.

What Causes Cystitis

Before we look at how we can prevent cystitis, it's important to understand the potential reason it occurs.

Cystitis is thought to be caused by bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. Coli). As bacteria enters the urethra (the tube which we urinate from), it travels up and into the bladder, which causes irritation and inflammation. Along with these uncomfortable symptoms, you may also experience a general feeling of unwellness as your body fights the infection.

A woman's urethra is shorter, and closer to the anus. This means that bacteria from the anus can enter the urethra more easily, causing a UTI. This is why women are more prone to cystitis than men.

Though cystitis can and does affect men, it's not as common for men to get UTIs. Cystitis in men can be the sign of an underlying medical problem with their kidneys, bladder or prostate. For this reason, it is important that men get checked out by their doctor if they suspect or receive a positive test result that says they have cystitis.

Potential Everyday Things That Could Be Causing Cystitis

There are a number of things you could be doing that, without realising it, may be heightening your risk of getting cystitis. These include:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Contraceptive diaphragm
  • Wiping back to front, instead of front to back

This is because all these things risk moving bacteria to the entrance of the urethra.

A number of unavoidable yet potential causes include:

  • Pregnancy (as a result of hormonal changes)
  • Diabetes (higher sugar levels in urine mean bacteria can breed more easily there)
  • Age (younger than 1, older than 75)
  • Urinary catheter
  • Weakened immune system
  • Menopause

Obstruction or damage to the urethra can also lead to cystitis.

How Can I Prevent Cystitis?

The NHS recommends a number of things that could help prevent cystitis. These things mostly include washing or "flushing out" the bacteria from around the urethra:

Try showering, rather than bathing.

This means the sensitive intimate areas are exposed to less potentially irritating products, included scented bathing gels or shower washes.

Drink lots of water.

Staying hydrated will help prevent bacteria multiplying in the bladder, plus it will ensure you need to urinate regularly, which helps to flush bacteria out of the bladder and urethra.

Don't put off going to the toilet.

Go to the toilet as soon as possible when you need to, and empty the bladder fully. Holding it in can be uncomfortable and "stores" any bacteria inside rather than flushing it out.

Change your toilet habits.

Wipe front to back when going to the toilet in order to prevent bacteria from the anus getting into the urethra.

You should also avoid using scented toilet paper which, much like other fragrances, may upset the pH balance.

Change the material of your underwear.

Wear loose, comfortable underwear made of breathable fabric such as cotton, so that your intimate areas are not confined or irritated by harsh or tight materials.

Underwear made from synthetic fibres can irritate your sensitive areas and allow bacteria to build up.

Avoid soaps when washing your genitals.

When washing your genitals, avoid perfumes soaps. Using regular water ensures the pH balance is kept normal.

Pee after having sex.

Those who are more sexually active are at a higher risk of cystitis. This is due to irritation and a heightened risk of bacteria entering unwanted areas.

Urinating straight after sex helps to flush out any bacteria which may have got up there.

If you use a diaphragm as your contraceptive, consider changing it.

A diaphragm works by containing spermicides, which not only kills sperm but also kills the protective lining of the vagina. This means bacteria can more effectively duplicate, and as the vagina is next to the urethra there is a heightened risk of infection. As well as this, a diaphragm pushes against the urethra, making it difficult to empty the bladder fully. There are a number of different varieties of contraceptive you can try, including the pill or barrier contraceptive like condoms.

A well known "prevention" of cystitis is drinking cranberry juice. However, recent larger studies have shown that it doesn't make a significant difference.

If you're unsure whether you have cystitis, or you have not had cystitis before, it's important to see your doctor or your local pharmacist, who will be able to give further advice and treatment if required. Have a look at out blog post, "Why Do I Keep Getting Cystitis?" for more information on recurring episodes and how to prevent them.

Authored & Reviewed By

Mohamed Imran Lakhi

MPharm - Lead Pharmacist
Imran Lakhi is the superintendent pharmacist and founder at Prescription Doctor. He has been at the core of our team.

Published on: 22/08/2019 Reviewed on: 01/09/2023
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