Frequently Asked Questions: Cystitis

Here are some frequently asked questions related to cystitis.

Q: I just returned from my honeymoon with a miserable bladder infection. I’ve never had one before. Why now?

A: Your condition is sometimes called “honeymoon cystitis.” This happens when the urethra is irritated during sexual intercourse. Sexual activity can push bacteria into the urethral opening and the germs migrate up to the bladder. Emptying your bladder both before and after intercourse helps wash bacteria out of the urethra.

Q: My husband says that only women get bladder infections. Is that true?

A: Men also get bladder infections, although not as frequently as women. Symptoms for both men and women are about the same. As men age, the prostate gland often enlarges and can push onto and narrow the urethra. That makes it difficult for a man to empty his bladder completely. The pooled urine can breed bacteria and cause an attack of cystitis. If the prostate becomes inflamed, a condition called prostatitis, may occur. The symptoms are the same as for a bladder infection. Sometimes, just the urethra becomes inflamed. Any man with painful urination should see the doctor.

Q: A friend says she tests her own urine at home whenever a bladder infection starts up. How can she do that?

A: In the U.S., home dipstick urine tests are now available without prescription and are easy to use. The dipstick turns color if the urine shows large amounts of bacteria. Some experts say that these tests detect almost all common bladder infections. The tests are especially useful for women who have recurring attacks.

Q: I’m expecting my first baby and just got over a bladder infection. I’ve never had one before. Why now?

A: Pregnant women have more attacks of urinary tract infection than other women do. Early in pregnancy, frequent urination may happen because the uterus gets bigger and presses on the bladder. Later on in pregnancy, many women have bacteria in the urine even though they have no symptoms of infection. All pregnant women should be tested for urinary tract infection as part of routine prenatal care.

Q: My doctor just prescribed an antibiotic for my bladder infection. I’ve been reading about the problem of growing resistant to these drugs. What can I do to avoid that?

A: First, always finish all of your medication. Don’t stop taking it just because you’re feeling better. Stopping early allows the toughest bacteria to survive and multiply. That’s how a resistant strain of bacteria develops. Second, take your antibiotic exactly as prescribed. Skipping a dose can encourage growth of resistant bacteria. Third, don’t take antibiotics for cold or flu, or to prevent disease. Taking antibiotics routinely also increases the chances for developing resistant infections.

Q: I just read that generic painkillers are cheaper than brand name drugs. Should I pay more for the brand names to make sure I get the best relief?

A: Save some health care dollars and buy generic drugs. Generic painkillers are almost always cheaper than brand name drugs and are just as effective.

Q: My mother is in a nursing home. She just had a catheter put in, and I’m worried that she’ll get a bladder infection on top of everything else she’s gone through. Anything I can do?

A: You are right to be concerned. People who have urinary catheters for any length of time can develop large numbers of bacteria in their urine. People who can’t move well are also at higher risk for infection. Catheters should be used only when necessary and removed as soon as possible. Talk it over with the doctor. Does she really need one? Or is it simply a convenience for the nursing home staff? If your mother must have a catheter, make sure it is replaced every two weeks to help reduce the risk of infection. Make sure the nursing staff irrigates the bladder with antibiotics between replacements. The drainage bag should never be on the floor.Every day and after each bowel movement, both the catheter and the area around the urethra should be cleaned with soap and water. Check to see that the bag is kept securely in place against her leg.Encourage your mother to drink lots of fluids and assist her if she needs help. If she can tolerate cranberry or blueberry juice, see that she gets three glasses a day.

Q: Since going through menopause my mother hasn’t had a bladder infection, yet she used to get them a lot. She says her secret is hormones. How so?

A: Women who use a vaginal cream containing estrogen seem to avoid many bladder infections. Some experts believe that estrogen may resist infection by increasing the number of a certain kind of “good” bacteria, called lactobacilli. These bacteria fight infection by changing the character of the vaginal discharge and preventing E. coli-the most common cause of cystitis-from adhering to vaginal cells.Oral estrogen may not have the same benefit. Some studies show that women who take oral estrogen actually have more urinary tract infections.

Q: Vitamin C is supposed to help you get over a cystitis attack. How so?

A: Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, helps decrease the concentration of bacteria in the urine. Oranges, pineapples, tomatoes, and leafy green vegetables are all good sources of vitamin C.

Q: High-acid foods like oranges and pineapples upset my stomach. What else can I do to get over this attack?

A: For one day, add one teaspoon of baking soda to 10 ounces of fluid. Drink that mixture two or three times during that period. Baking soda makes the bladder less friendly to bacterial growth.

Q: I drink lots of orange juice, but the clinic nurse says that cranberry or blueberry juice is better. Are they?

A: Cranberry and blueberry juice both prevent the E. coli bacteria from sticking to the lining of the bladder. Studies show that drinking either of them helps rid the bladder of infection more quickly than if they are not used. Both juices also help prevent bladder infections.

Q: At my wedding shower, I got some lovely silk underwear. But since getting married, I’ve had several bladder infections and my doctor says to wear only cotton. Why so? Can I ever wear my silk lingerie?

A: Cotton “breathes” better than silk or other fabrics. Because germs thrive in moist, dark, warm places, that pretty underwear will hold in the moisture. Wear cotton underwear for everyday use, and enjoy silky wear on special occasions. Make sure all your underwear fits loosely. Tight-fitting clothing also holds moisture in.

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