Cystitis is a problem in which pain, pressure, or burning in the bladder is present. Most often, this problem is caused by germs such as bacteria. Cystitis may also be present when there is no infection.
The exact cause of noninfectious cystitis is often not known. It is more common in women as compared to men.
The problem has been linked to:
- Use of baths and feminine hygiene sprays
- Use of spermicide jellies, gels, foams, and sponges
- Radiation therapy to the pelvis area
- Certain types of chemotherapy drugs
- History of severe or repeated bladder infections
Certain foods, such as spicy or acidic foods, tomatoes, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol, can cause bladder symptoms.
Common symptoms include:
- Pressure or pain in the lower pelvis
- Painful urination
- Frequent need to urinate
- Urgent need to urinate
- Problems holding urine
- Need to urinate at night
- Abnormal urine color, cloudy urine
- Blood in the urine
- Foul or strong urine odor
Other symptoms may include:
Exams and Tests
A urinalysis may reveal red blood cells (RBCs) and some white blood cells (WBCs). Urine may be examined under a microscope to look for cancerous cells.
A urine culture (clean catch) is done to look for a bacterial infection.
A cystoscopy (use of lighted instrument to look inside the bladder) may be done if you have:
- Symptoms related to radiation therapy or chemotherapy
- Symptoms that do not get better with treatment
- Blood in the urine
The goal of treatment is to manage your symptoms.
This may include:
- Medicines to help your bladder relax. They can reduce the strong urge to urinate or need to urinate frequently. These are called anticholinergic drugs. Possible side effects include increased heart rate, low blood pressure, dry mouth, and constipation.
- A medicine called phenazopyridine (pyridium) to help relieve pain and burning with urination.
- Medicines to help reduce pain.
- Surgery is rarely done. It may be performed if a person has symptoms that do not go away with other treatments, trouble passing urine, or blood in the urine.
Other things that may help include:
- Avoiding foods and fluids that irritate the bladder. These include spicy and acidic foods as well as alcohol, citrus juices, and caffeine, and foods that contain them.
- Performing bladder training exercises to help you schedule times to try to urinate and to delay urination at all other times. One method is to force yourself to delay urinating despite the urge to urinate in between these times. As you become better at waiting this long, slowly increase the time intervals by 15 minutes. Try to reach a goal of urinating every 3 to 4 hours.
- Avoid pelvic muscle strengthening exercises called Kegel exercises.
Most cases of cystitis are uncomfortable, but the symptoms most often get better over time. Symptoms can improve if you are able to identify and avoid food triggers.
Complications may include:
- Ulceration of bladder wall
- Painful sex
- Sleep loss
Avoid products that may irritate the bladder such as:
- Bubble baths
- Feminine hygiene sprays
- Tampons (especially scented products)
- Spermicidal jellies
If you need to use such products, try to find those that do not cause irritation for you.
Abacterial cystitis; Radiation cystitis; Chemical cystitis; Urethral syndrome - acute; Bladder pain syndrome; Painful bladder disease complex; Dysuria - noninfectious cystitis; Frequent urination - noninfectious cystitis; Painful urination - noninfectious; Interstitial cystitis
American Urological Association website. Diagnosis and treatment interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome. www.auanet.org/guidelines/interstitial-cystitis/bladder-pain-syndrome-(2011-amended-2014). Accessed April 6, 2018.
Carter C. Urinary tract disorders. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 40.
Hanno PM. Bladder pain syndrome (interstitial cystitis) and related disorders. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 14.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Interstitial cystitis (Painful bladder syndrome). www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/interstitial-cystitis-painful-bladder-syndrome. Updated July 2017. Accessed March 29, 2018.
Review Date 1/23/2018
Updated by: Sovrin M. Shah, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Urology, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.