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What is cystitis?
Cystitis literally means inflammation of the bladder (‘itis’ = inflammation). It’s also known as a lower urinary tract infection (UTI), or as some people call, a water infection.
Women are more likely than men to get UTI’s because they have a shorter tube that connects the bladder to the outside – known as the urethra – which is approximately 4cm in women compared to 20cm in men (1). Around one in three women have had a UTI by the age of 24 and around half of all women report at least one UTI sometime during their lifetime (2).
Other risk factors for a UTI include;
- Being sexually active
- Diabetes mellitus
- Having a suppressed immune system
- Having abnormalities somewhere along the urinary tract
- Use of a catheter
- Incomplete bladder emptying
What are the symptoms of cystitis?
Classic symptoms include;
- Burning or stinging sensation on passing urine
- Feeling of needing to pass urine urgently or more frequently
- Lower abdominal (tummy) pain
- Cloudy looking urine
- Generally feeling unwell
- Blood in the urine
How is it treated?
Most women are given a 3-day course of antibiotics – or a delayed prescription if symptoms are mild. You might be advised that you do not require antibiotics if your signs and symptoms are very mild (and if you are not pregnant and have no other illnesses). Particularly in mild cases, cystitis can often be cleared by your immune system and go away on its own in a few days.
Men, pregnant women, and people with more serious symptoms may need a slightly longer course of antibiotics.
Painkillers can be taken for associated pain and we recommend drinking lots of fluids as concentrated urine can irritate the bladder more.
How can I be sure it is cystitis?
The symptoms of cystitis overlap with other conditions such as thrush or a more complicated urinary tract infection, therefore it is really important to rule this out first by speaking to your pharmacist or GP.
Boots offer a Cystitis Test and Treat service for women which allows you to test for a UTI, and treat it, without the need to see your GP. This service is available in selected stores, for non-pregnant women, aged 16 to 64, who have symptoms of uncomplicated lower UTI.
The Boots Pharmacy Advisor or Pharmacist will first ask you a few questions about your symptoms and check if at home testing is appropriate for you. If so, you will then be given the option of picking up a UTI Urine Test Kit for £10 and test at home. You’ll need to first download a free app onto your smartphone (must be compatible), follow the instructions to complete the urine dipstick test, and retrieve your results. After that, return to any participating boots store where the Pharmacist will offer you advice and discuss possible treatment options, and if appropriate, can also supply medication without the need to consult a GP, for an additional £15.
Important: If you have severe symptoms, have signs of a kidney infection (such as back pain) or if you feel unwell (such as if you have a high temperature or flu-like symptoms), you should speak to your doctor.
What can I do to prevent them?
- Wipe front to back after using the toilet
- Go to the toilet to pass urine after sex
- Do not delay going to the toilet when you need to pass urine.
- Avoid douching or using soap/perfumed shower wash when washing your genital area.
- Wear cotton underwear, rather than synthetic.
How about cranberry juice?
There actually is some science behind this as cranberries contain a substance that can prevent bacteria from sticking on the walls of the bladder. However evidence is inconsistent therefore cranberry products are no longer recommended to treat or prevent UTIs (3).
Terms and Conditions
This service is available in selected stores, subject to availability, for women, aged 16 to 64, who have symptoms of an uncomplicated lower UTI. This service is also not suitable for pregnant women and further eligibility criteria and charges apply. Supply of prescription medicine subject to availability; no additional charge for pharmacist consultation if prescription medicine is not supplied. Compatible smartphone required (download the free app). Find out more at boots.com/cystitis-test-and-treat-service