These truly unpleasant episodes, more frequent among women than men, are caused by an infection in the urinary tract that can, however, be controlled and prevented if we take the right steps.
What is the origin of cystitis?
In by far the most cases (around 80%), cystitis, or urinary tract infection, is caused by E. coli, a germ that is usually present in the intestines and is eliminated in the faeces. However, sometimes E. coli stays and reproduces pathologically in the urinary apparatus after rising through the urethra until it reaches the bladder. It is precisely when urinating that the first symptoms of the infection are noted, made worse by the particular arrangement of the urinary organs in women – the anus and the urethra are very close to each other – as well as other factors, such as the hormonal changes that take place over the course women’s lives (menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and so on). The presence of stones in the kidney can also lead to the appearance of this problem, similarly to what may happen during periods when the organism is immunocompromised (a state we often call “being low on our defences”). In such a situation, the body does not have as many weapons to fight harmful microorganisms like E. coli.
Signs of cystitis
The alarm bells ring when we go to the toilet. Generally, the appearance and smell of our urine change: it becomes thicker, as if dyed, or gives of a strong, unpleasant smell. When we have cystitis, we suffer from a series of symptoms, such as pain or a burning feeling when urinating or during sex. The infection can also cause high temperature (though it does not in all cases), pressure in the lower abdomen and a typical symptom: the urgent need to go often to the toilet, even when we have just emptied our bladder.
Apart from the occasional discomfort caused, cystitis is an infection that requires treatment as it may cause other more serious illnesses, such as kidney infection or chronic bladder pain (interstitial cystitis). That is why it is important to see a doctor as soon as the first symptoms appear.
How to prevent cystitis
The correct medical treatment for curing cystitis is generally based on antibiotics, but it is also important to take a series of measures to prevent new infections:
- Drink plenty of liquids (not alcohol or caffeine), as this helps us to eliminate bacteria in the urinary tract.
- Keep the genital area clean and dry. It is essential to wash this area every day, using a good gel, and to clean after defecating (women should always wipe always from front to back, so that germs in the anus do not come into contact with the genitals).
- Avoid excess humidity: for example, do not wear a wet bathing costume too long.
- Urinate regularly. It is not good to postpone urinating, as this can allow bacteria to spread. This is particularly important at critical moments such as just before and after sexual contact, when there is more risk of developing the infection.
- Avoid tight clothes and wear cotton underwear to prevent irritation.
- Take a good supplement based on cranberries, which ensures a high level of PAC (Proanthocyanidin).