What Is Cystitis?

Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, sometimes involving the tube that drains urine from the bladder, called the urethra.

Urinary system

Cystitis is the most common form of urinary tract infection and occurs mainly in women. But men and children also can experience cystitis.

Elderly men and women are especially at high risk for cystitis. Nearly one-third experiences the condition.

Bacterial infection causes most bouts of cystitis. Although the urinary tract is normally sterile, germs sometimes may enter the body through the urethra and grow inside the bladder.

This bacterial growth causes the inside walls of the bladder to become inflamed. That inflammation leads to the common symptoms of cystitis.

Cystitis does not:

  • Cause cancer
  • Lead to more serious kidney disease in otherwise healthy individuals

Occasionally, no cause can be found for a bladder inflammation.

Understanding How the Bladder Works


The bladder is a balloon-like sac that sits in the lower part of the abdomen in front of the bowel. It stores the urine that the kidneys produce as they filter out waste products from the bloodstream.


  • As urine forms in the kidneys, it travels down the ureterswhich are the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder.
  • The urine is stored in the bladder until the person feels the urge to urinate.
  • Going to the bathroom to urinate causes the bladder to contract.
  • This releases the urine, which passes down a tube called the urethra.
  • The urethra connects the bladder to the outside of the body.

Urinating allows the body to continually remove certain waste products from its system.

Facts About Cystitis

  • Cystitis occurs in 2 out of every 100 people.
  • In most cases, bacteria cause the condition. Usually the infection is brief and acute, with only the surface of the bladder infected.
  • Women are much more prone to cystitis than men.
  • Up to 20% of women will experience cystitis in their lifetime.
  • Women are 30 times more likely to have cystitis than men are.
  • Cystitis occurs most often in sexually active women ages 20 to 50. It also may occur in women or teenagers who are not sexually active, or in young girls.
  • Cystitis rarely occurs in men with normal urinary tracts.
  • In men, an enlarged prostate gland can cause bladder infections.
  • Infection limited solely to the urethra, known as urethritis, is a common sexually transmitted disease in men.


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