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Cystitis in women

What is cystitis?

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder. There are two main types.

Bacterial cystitis is caused by bacteria (germs), and is also referred to as a urinary tract infection or a UTI. These bacteria, mainly Escherichia coli (E. coli for short), normally live in and around the anus (back passage). In men, the urethra goes along the length of the penis and is about 24–30 cm long, but in women it is only about 6 cm long. So in women, bacteria on the skin can easily get into the bladder, as with a shorter urethra there is a shorter distance for the bacteria to travel. This probably explains why cystitis is much more common in women than in men.
Some women find that bacterial cystitis is related to boisterous sex, which can bruise the urethra and may push or squeeze bacteria up into the bladder. For more information see our section on how to prevent further attacks of cystitis.
Bladder pain syndrome (also called painful bladder syndrome, interstitial cystitis, non-bacterial cystitis, urgency and frequency syndrome) is inflammation of the bladder without any bacteria being present. Most sufferers (90%) are women. Bladder pain syndrome can occur at any age, but is most common in women in their early 40s. It is a bit of a mystery, and no one really knows what causes it. Theories include:
  • lack of a substance called glycosaminoglycan, which is part of the slimy layer that covers and protects the lining of the bladder
  • activity of special types of cells (called mast cells) commonly found in the bladder wall of people with bladder pain syndrome. These cells respond to allergy by releasing chemicals such as histamine, which cause swelling and pain. 

Symptoms of cystitis

The symptoms of cystitis are:
  • a burning, stinging or aching pain when you pass urine
  • a need to pass water very frequently, often only a small amount each time
  • bloody or cloudy urine (severe cystitis).
Bacterial cystitis. With bacterial cystitis, you usually experience only the burning pain and frequent urination. It is possible for the infection to travels upwards to the kidneys, but this is unusual. Infection in a kidney needs proper medical treatment, so see your doctor straight away if you also have:
  • blood (or a smoky appearance) in the urine
  • backache or stomach ache
  • fever and weakness.
Painful pain syndrome. With bladder pain syndrome (interstitial cystitis) the symptoms are diverse. You have to pass urine frequently (including at night), and maybe urgently. You may have discomfort in the lower abdomen when the bladder is filling (pelvic pain), but once you urinate the pain or discomfort is relieved. Sex may be painful. Often, symptoms are worse in the week before a period.

What else could I have?

Not all urine problems are cystitis. For example:

  • if you have soreness or itching around the opening of the urethra (pee hole) you might have a herpes infection, yeast infection or a chlamydia infection
  • if your only problem is having to pass urine frequently, you might have diabetes (especially if you are thirsty all the time), so see your doctor
  • if your main problem is having to rush to the toilet, you may have a continence problem.

Written by: Diane Newman
Edited by:
Last updated: Wednesday, October 15th 2014


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Comments on this article

Posted by megan artilary on 01/05/2017 at 11:31

My pee hole edges are white but I have no pain irritation or stuff oozing out of it.. Please help!! I am worried..

Posted by Optional on 26/05/2016 at 12:07

It just hurts/burns a little when I pee. And this past week I've been peeing more than usual. I had a a uti that led to a kidney infection a few weeks ago. I took the meds the doc prescribed me and finished them. Now I'm back at it with this pain and urgency. What's wrong with me. I have a lot of sex with my husband can too much sex cause this?

Posted by teena on 13/01/2016 at 04:33

After having sex without protection with my husband , the next day I felt some irritation burning sensation in while passing urine, feels that passing urine frequently but nothing comes then I drink water it reduced after two days the same burning sensation starts I urinated,afer two minute burning again I go to bathroom at that time wit pain blood comes through urethra,after tat blood gone I felt relieve and I drink water n slept after that im day no problem ,again the next day starts the same. do I need to consult a doctor

Posted by BabyGirl on 09/12/2015 at 05:35

No itching;;; burning;; stinging;;; and I'm on my period it's bad :( Can anyone tell me what it is?

Posted by unaware_20 on 08/12/2015 at 08:26

My period is due but I have a bladder infection I bleed only when I pee... but the blood is most times not in my urine. Oh no, it doesn't come from my pee hole.. it comes from my vagina but doesn't stain my this my period?

Posted by Optional on 22/10/2015 at 10:31

I have my periods today and this pain started last night when I felt like going to pee. it's like a pain when I go sit on the toilet especially after am finishing up urinating. and I also have cramps. what could be the problem please help

Posted by i hurt 24~7 on 12/09/2015 at 01:19

I have NO ITCHING...I have burrning urethia...been told this and that...3 weeks later still hurts.. Thought was cause I am dry HYDERICTOMY at 23 years old everything out....I am on hydrocodone...heating pad...and estrence lower left side back hurts...

Posted by Optional on 02/07/2015 at 03:31

I'm 15 and I've always had trouble with my kidneys or bladder. And that is hereditary. But lately it has been harder to pee and when I do it burns very badly and less comes out. Like only a couple drops. And its really begun to scare me

Posted by Optional on 22/06/2015 at 07:56

at the age of 15 i got a uti. I lived with it for 2 years straight. It never went away. at 17 i went to diff docs even a urologist and they couldnt find the problem. I am 21 now and still live with it. It bothers me left often but still hurts bad. My 'pee hole' swells and urinary burns and ugency. I have gone to the doc multiple times, they do a pee test, and it tells them theres nothign wrong with me. SO im starting to think whatever i have is incurable. Which is horrible. I am only 21, im so young to be dealing with a seriously painful problem like this.

Posted by Optional on 25/05/2015 at 12:16

Hi. I've been experiencing recurrent uti.It started off as itching a few weeks after I lost my virginity, (my boyfriend used a condom) and over the next few weeks got the urge to pee really badly, then came kidney pain and needing to pee every few minutes but hardly any pee would come. . I have been treated twice with antibiotics but obviously both haven't worked despite being put on a higher dosage for a week.I also have pain during sex and burning but notice if I have sex from the back then I have no problems. My boyfriend hasn't been wearing Condoms either because I'm taking the pill so I figured it wouldn't matter. I try going to the loo after sex and making sure I wipe properly but the uti has occurred again 3 days after sex. I have been back and forth to the doctors and they just ask me the same questions about sti's, pregnancy etc and I know my boyfriend hasn't got a sti because hes swore he's never been with anyone before me plus I'm taking the pill so there's no chance I could be pregnant. I also have had a swab test, wee test but the wee test came back contaminated so I have to do it again and the swab test won't come back till Friday. I really want this infection to go. .

Posted by Optional on 08/05/2015 at 08:33

Im having a stinging pain on per hole while peeing. From last 4-5 days. And itching also. What could be the problem.

Posted by Optional on 01/04/2015 at 07:54

I had sex with my partner on sunday, and Monday morning. I went to use the restroom and it was if in was having a menustral cycle. whats strange is that I had a uterus ublation in 2001 where they froze a thin lining of the uterus. and then I began to start running to the bathroom not being able to hold my urine. im really nervous.

Posted by really bad pain in vaginal area on 28/03/2015 at 03:07

I'm on my period and I have really bad pain in my vaginal area and the pain gets even worse right after I pee and toward the end of peeing its like a really bad stinging and burning feeling and I also noticed that last night when I had pushed down on my lower part of my stomach the pain from my stomach quickly went to my vaginal area please help its been 6 days with this pain and I really want it to go away

Posted by Kat on 27/01/2015 at 07:42

I am uncomfortable and after I pee I have pain for about 30 seconds. Seems to be more irritating if I need to have a BM.... I was told by dr I had UTI...took antibiotics and was better over a few days later its back!

Posted by Optional on 17/01/2015 at 02:14

I have had a tvt surgery and it didn't work. A year and a half later I had urethorlysis, pubovaginal sling and cystoscopy, rectus fascia harvest along with an abdominoplasty surgery. I have urinary inconcience and uti's all the time. I now have an order for the last six months that is horrible, not fishy smell. My doctor tells me there is nothing wrong. I take 3 showers a day and that is not enough. I get up 5 to 7 times a night to go to the bathroom. This is not normal but it seems my doctor has wiped his hands of me. He is not the one that did any of the surgeries. Should I see another doctor which will be number 4.

Posted by Optional on 14/01/2015 at 05:52

A need to pee often small amount at a time a stinging pain in the pee hole

Posted by Bongie on 10/01/2015 at 02:52

I have painful urethra and urinating frequently a burning urine

Posted by Help on 30/12/2014 at 05:05

I feel some type of pressured in my pee hole when I sit. And I when I pee it burns. My bladder doesn't hurt or my vagina,just in my ppee hole.can any one tell what can it be?

Posted by Lauren on 10/12/2014 at 08:44

I have a problem ... I have had sex with my bf and yours later i kept having the urge to pee ... Its been getting worst within minutes ..... It doesn't burn nor sting just a horrible feeling constantly i cant stop the pain ... I brought cranberry juice but i dont like the taste ... Do you have any better suggestions ... I dont want to go to my doc and i would be embarrassed if i had some sort of disease or STD ... Please help i cant bare this pain no longer

Posted by Optional on 26/11/2014 at 02:58

im having severe pain both in my vagina and anal region, it burns and stings, worst when going to the toilet and has caused me to cry. I am unable to sleep. my stomach is cramping all the time. I have pcos. I have tried everything from creams tablets and cranberry juice and cannot shift this pain. can someone please help me.

Posted by Optional on 09/11/2014 at 01:06

Had thrush last week done pessary and cream and now my clit and weehole is hurting and itchy is this related or what is it

Posted by anna on 12/08/2014 at 03:12

It stings when I pee and is sometimes hard to get all my pee out and air is coming out of my pee hole. I have been hospitalized with my kidneys before the tube that carries the pee out was swollen and my urine was backed up and I I ended up with sephis an almost went into kidney failure. The drs said it was caused by a kidney stone but I never saw a kidney stone but did see blood come out one day before I was admitted into critical care. I don't know if it could be related but I'm having awful knee pain and it hurts when I bend my fingers. I don't know what's going on with me

Posted by Optional on 16/06/2014 at 06:40

I have had what I think is a water infection for about a month now and it isnt going away I have all the symptoms but the opening to my vagina is so sore and itchy and just hurting all the time but Im to scared to go to the doctors

Posted by SierraMH on 14/06/2014 at 05:38

Me and my girlfriend had sex and the next day when I went to pee i felt pain. I only feel the pain when it starts to get to the end and last drop of my pee, WHATS WRONG?! I'm just nervous because this has never happened before. My vaginia isn't stinging but it's like hot , kinda like the after affect of eating hot Cheetos. Can someone please help it's the 2nd day this has happened.

Posted by mel milano on 10/06/2014 at 12:00

One day after school i felt that i really needed to pee , so when i did only a few drops came out but i still felt that i still needed to pee , then after 2-4 minutes i needed to pee again but when i did it was only a few drops and then a sharp pain started it felt like i was holding my pee for years but then it stops after 10 seconds and there was abit of blood(i guess) . is there any suggestions to what this could be ? pls help

Posted by Hannah on 03/06/2014 at 06:27

At the end of when I'm peeing it feels weird like I have I little bit of sting pain but Its not bad what is it and how can I get rid of it ?

Posted by Leigh on 30/05/2014 at 04:48

For many years now I've noticed that during my period my urethra seems irritated. I get a strong urge to pee even when my bladder isn't holding much at all; and my bladder doesn't always empty completely. I will pee a few drops at a time for several minutes after I pee and I never quite feel like I'm done. It isn't painful, and it's not a burning sensation. I don't know how to describe it other than irratating. Any time I've mentioned it to my doctor, they test me for a urinary or bladder infection and it comes back negative and that is the end of it. The symptoms persist though. They happen every time I'm on my period, and rarely other times. It's pretty much always been that way for me. Has anyone else had this problem, or have any ideas what it could be?

Posted by - Editor's Choice on 29/05/2014 at 01:28

Thank you Janie on 25/05/14 for sharing your treatment tips. For further suggestions, please see our page on 'What you can do':

Posted by Janie on 25/05/2014 at 02:53, United Kingdom

I have suffered from cystitis from my early twenties. It usually starts with cramps in my stomach which get worse over a couple of days resulting in me doubled up with pain and unable to straighten up and increased urination. Usually I seem to get this condition in cold weather or when I have used soap in my lower regions in the bath - which probably send germs into my Urethra. Now I have found an alternative remedy for this condition; first don't wash with soap in that area, drink at least two to three litres of water a day and - TEA TREE OIL! If ever you suspect the slightest pain starting in that region, put some Tea Tree Oil on some cottom wool and dab on the (wee wee hole) - Urethra area. So now instead of going to the doctor for antibiotics every time a pain starts - I use Tea Tree Oil and litres of water. Try this cure!

Posted by Optional on 03/05/2014 at 01:36, United States

It hurts when I pee sometimes and it itches on the inside of my vulva when I move, it's not bad itching. When my pee touch my vulva skin it hurt a lil but as I pee it doesn't. When I pee a lil bit it hurts bad . I took a hiv and std test just gotta take a Pap smear. What could this be? :(

Posted by Optional on 12/02/2014 at 12:14, United States

For the past few days iv noticed some irritation near my pee hole (sorry don't know what's it's called) and now it's getting worse and itchy. I was getting nervous and checked it out. There is a small bump and it's whitish and regular skin color ish. I'm getting really scared because I haven't had sex or done anything in my life. No masterbation nothing. And I don't want to tell my mom because it's embarrsing please help:(

Posted by Optional on 28/10/2013 at 07:02, United States

So I haven't had sex with my boyfriend since October. 11 it was also our first sexual in counter with one another, we have had sex with others this was just out first time since we started dating. How ever yesterday (sat. Oct. 26, 2013) I got what felt like the beginnings of a urinary track infection I went and bought cranberry juice and was drinking it all yesterday and today, but not so much today. And suddenly it hit. But I don't know the cause. I don't masterbate or touch my self and haven't had sex. Wat other possible things could cause it? I did have a rash a few days before from wearing some shorts.

Posted by Optional on 14/09/2013 at 02:22, United States

When I urine it's a pressure coming from my pee hole and pushes out every drop of urine as I was taking a bath it did it again but a lil blood came I have sex with my boyfriend but we have not for a couple of weeks. But I did Masturbate yesterday morning and maybe an hour after that the pressure started happening like I'm about to have an orgasm. It tickles really bad if I touch it which makes me use the bathroom I don't know what's wrong ?

Posted by Optional on 22/05/2013 at 03:14, United Kingdom

I have cystitis and every time I pass urine my hands burn fiercely. Cannot find out why.

Posted by Optional on 17/04/2013 at 08:44, United Kingdom

water infections all time antibiotics no good

Posted by help:( on 29/03/2013 at 07:03, United Kingdom

I have white stuff round my pee hole and it itches and quite sore, it sometimes hurts when i pee, i last had sex 3 weeks ago, im not sure if its thrush or not?

Posted by Optional on 29/03/2013 at 12:23, United Kingdom

I have a burning/ stinging pain which is usually onset when needing to urinate and at times during or after ntercourse. This pain can often persist long after urinating/sex. The pain is around the entrance to the vagina. Previously when I did not know how to combat the problem the pain would become so bad and I would start to get very hot and irritable. Previously applying pressure, like sitting on the edge of a chair or the side of the bath helped, although at times i couldnt sit at all. Now I've realised that taking iboprufen helps. I've been given antibiotics, tested for stds and thrush, several times, but still to no avail. This has been going on for many months on and off. I also tried non perfume soaps and no improvement. Can anyone shed any light?

Posted by Anxious and Scared! on 02/03/2013 at 03:53, Australia

I used to think that I had some sort of STI but when i went to a clinic they said i just had thrush, so I got a 3 day cure and everything seemed fine from then, apart from going to the bathroom. for the last year or two it has been painful to pass urine majority of the time i go. If I have been drinking lots of water all day it doesn't usually. Just recently my urine hole has been really itchy. Please help I'm terrified and don't want to tell my mum incase it ends up being an STI. Because I have had sex before.

Posted by EBONY on 17/10/2012 at 05:32, United States


Posted by Amanda on 15/10/2012 at 07:47, United Kingdom

after my boyfriend was fingering me the other day i noticed a few spots of blood on my underwear is this cycstitis or does it mean tht he was a little too rough fingering me.also i do have to keep going toilet quite often and i get a burning sensation what does this mean.ive done a water sample for doctor but heard nothing back since.


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Fascinating facts

Every year, 1–3 women out of 10 have an attack of cystitis

At any time, about 1 in 20 healthy women has bacteria in her bladder, without any symptoms. Only 10% of these progress to cystitis symptoms

In the USA, over 11 million women each year receive antibiotics for cystitis, costing over $1.6 billion (£1100 million)

In the UK, doctors write 5.5 million prescriptions for cystitis each year

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