Cystitis is a bacterial infection of the urinary tract which affects the bladder.

Because the germ in most instances comes from outside the body it enters the bladder through the urethra, which is the fine tube through which you pass urine.

Infection of the lower urinary tract, which includes the urethra and the bladder, causes a burning pain on urination, foul smelling, blood stained urine, increased frequency of urination, although often smaller amounts of urine are passed and general discomfort in the lower abdomen.

Infection spreading up to the kidney produces a more generalised group of symptoms including headache, a feeling of nausea with vomiting, chills and fever. This can also cause abdominal pain which is located over the kidney, which is just below the ribs at the front and the back. The kidney can also be infected by blood borne germs entering through the throat.

Infections of the urinary tract depend on two major factors (1) easy access for bacteria and (2) a blockage to urine flow.

Bacteria find it easier to reach the bladder in women because the urethra is short and the opening is close to the vagina and anus. Sexual intercourse may cause or aggravate a urinary infection by spreading the bacteria and by causing inflammation of the urethra. Good hygiene during menstruation and following use of the toilet will help to prevent urinary tract infections. Tight underwear and jeans may cause inflammation of the urethra and predispose to infections.

Obstructions to urine flow can be caused by an enlarging prostate gland in men, the enlarging foetus and uterus in a pregnant woman and stones and tumours in both men and women.

Except in the case of a very minor first attack which settles with increasing fluid intake, it is wise to consult your doctor who will establish the cause of the attack of cystitis or urinary tract infection and will treat you with the appropriate antibiotic and provide advice on prevention and further investigations should they be needed.

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