Lower urinary tract infections (cystitis)

Urinary infections are caused by the growth of bacteria in the bladder. Usually the bladder is germ-free. Sometimes, however, bacteria travel up the urethra (the canal through which urine is eliminated) and reach the bladder, causing cystitis. Women have shorter urethras than men, so they are more at risk of infection. In fact, more than half women will suffer from at least 1 episode of cystitis in their lifetime.

People with cystitis usually experience some of the following symptoms:

  • pain or burning sensation while urinating;
  • pain in the lower abdomen;
  • a frequent need to urinate;
  • traces of blood in urine.

On occasion, cystitis can go completely unnoticed. In such circumstances, only urine analysis can detect the problem.


  • After a bowel movement, be careful not to contaminate your urethra with bacteria found in the stools (wipe away, not toward your urethra);
  • Limit the frequent use of tight clothing and pantyhose;
  • Urinate after sexual intercourse;
  • Do not refrain the urge to urinate.


Bacteria cause cystitis, so antibiotics are the only drugs that can treat it. In addition to antibiotic therapy, you should also:

  • take warm baths or use a heating pad to relieve pain;
  • avoid coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods that can irritate the bladder;
  • drink plenty of water (6-8 cups/day) to fill and empty the bladder more often.

It is possible to take an analgesic to relieve the pain often associated with cystitis. This agent is used only for the first few days, while the patient waits for the antibiotic to kick in.

How long should antibiotic therapy last?

Depending on which antibiotic is used, the treatment can last for 1 to 7 days. Three-day courses are mostly used to treat first-time or mild infections. This shorter course is not recommended for men, pregnant women, or women who frequently have cystitis. A urine analysis is sometimes performed after drug therapy is completed to make sure that the infection is really gone.

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