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Home / Cystitis / Cystitis causes: a comprehensive guide

Cystitis causes: a comprehensive guide

Learn about cystitis causes and how to treat them

The symptoms of cystitis are well-known to many women. However, what may not be known is the causes. From bacteria to bubble baths, there are multiple causes of the uncomfortable condition. Learn more about the types of cystitis and what causes them in our guide.

What are the types of cystitis?

Each type of cystitis is defined based on what it is caused by. Below is a summary of the main types and what causes them.

Bacterial cystitis occurs when bacteria get into the urinary tract.

Chemical cystitis occurs when chemicals in certain products irritate and inflame the bladder.

Radiation cystitis occurs when the bladder is damaged by radiotherapy.

Drug-induced cystitis occurs as a side effect of certain medicines.

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that causes frequent bladder inflammation.

What causes bacterial cystitis?

Bacterial cystitis is the most common type. If you have a UTI, it will probably be caused by bacteria like E.coli. Women are particularly prone because they have a shorter urethra than men.

When bacteria enter the urinary tract, it can cause a urinary tract infection. This is what leads to irritation and inflammation in the bladder. If not treated, the bacteria can spread further and cause a kidney infection.

3D generated image of bacteria.

A bacterial infection can happen in several ways.

Improper wiping, sexual intercourse and inserting tampons can all cause bacteria from the anus to spread to the urethra.

Not fully emptying your bladder and holding in your urine for too long can also lead to UTIs as both these actions can irritate and damage your bladder over time.

In addition, using a catheter can cause a UTI. Inserting a urinary catheter can cause bacteria from your digestive tract to enter the urethra. Bacteria can also be spread for as long as the catheter remains in your body.

You can prevent bacteria from spreading by:

  • wiping from front to back when you go to the bathroom
  • peeing as soon as possible after sex
  • washing your genitalia before and after sex
  • keeping your genitalia generally clean and dry
  • handling and using your catheter correctly - ask a healthcare professional if you’re not sure
  • only use the catheter for as long as you need

If you get UTIs after sex often, your doctor may recommend specific treatment.

You should have a urine test to identify the strain of bacteria causing your symptoms. This is because some rare strains have evolved to become resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic overuse can alter the bacteria in your body which can make infections like UTIs harder to treat.

What causes chemical cystitis?

Chemical cystitis is caused by chemicals in certain products.

These products disrupt the vaginal flora, the natural balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina. The chemicals affect this balance which can cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria. This is what can cause UTIs.

You should avoid using overly scented products or chemicals around or in your vagina, including:

  • bubble bath
  • talcum powder
  • overly scented soaps
  • spermicides
  • vaginal deodorants

If you use diaphragms and condoms with spermicide, perhaps consider another contraceptive.

What causes radiation cystitis?

Unlike the previous types, radiation cystitis is not a urinary tract infection. The term is used to describe damage to the bladder caused by radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy works by stopping cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. However, this also means some of the healthy cells are affected as well. So, it can cause many side effects.

This can damage the bladder when treating cancer in organs surrounding the bladder. This includes ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer. The radiation damages the healthy bladder tissue, causing it to become irritated and inflamed.

Treatment for this type will be based on the severity of your symptoms.

What causes drug-induced cystitis?

Occasionally, some medications can cause bladder inflammation. This happens when certain drugs are broken down into your system and pass through your bladder.

There are not many medications that cause this. One of the most common drugs to cause cystitis is chemotherapy drugs.

If you notice frequent cystitis symptoms, and you’re on a specific medication, you should consult your doctor.

What causes interstitial cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is unlike other types.

Also known as painful bladder syndrome, IC is a chronic condition that causes ongoing bladder inflammation. This causes frequent and urgent needs to pee, as well as intense pain when your bladder is full.

Close up of young woman holding bladder in pain on bed.

Unfortunately, there is often no exact cause of IC. However, experts Trusted source ScienceDirect Peer-reviewed Journals Multidisciplinary Research Go to source have identified several factors that may lead to IC, including:

  • bladder trauma from surgery
  • frequent long periods of not peeing
  • problems with the pelvic floor muscles
  • problems with the pelvic nerves

IC requires ongoing treatment and lifestyle changes. In some cases, it may even require surgery.

What causes cystitis in men?

Men get cystitis in the same way women do. However, an infection is a lot less common in men because their urethras are longer than in women. So, it’s more difficult for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.

There are some conditions unique to men that lead to cystitis. One such condition is an enlarged prostate. It causes excess pressure on the bladder and leads to inflammation and other symptoms.

Who is more at risk of getting cystitis?

Some conditions mean you are more at risk of getting cystitis:

  • being pregnant
  • having a condition that affects your immune system (e.g. HIV)
  • diabetes
  • bladder stones
  • having been through menopause
  • using a diaphragm for contraception

If one of these applies to you, you may require specific and ongoing treatment to control your symptoms.

How do I get rid of cystitis?

How you treat your symptoms will depend on the cause. More complicated types may require ongoing or specific treatment.

Want more UTI info?

Learn more here

Bacterial cystitis, on the other hand, is simple to treat with antibiotics.

For more information about cystitis and treatment, you can learn more at euroClinix.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 08-09-2023
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Further reading

Painful bladder syndrome: how to know when your cystitis could be chronic

Painful bladder syndrome: how to know when your cystitis ...

Reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho
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