Bacterial cystitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Complications

Cystitis or Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)


What is Bacterial cystitis?

Bacterial cystitis occurs when bacteria enter your urethra or bladder and cause an infection. This can also result when normally growing bacteria in your body becomes imbalanced. The infection leads to cystitis, or inflammation in your bladder.

It is important to treat a bladder infection. If the infection spreads you your kidneys it can become a serious health issue.

What causes Bacterial cystitis?

In most cases, cystitis is caused by a bacterial infection. Bacteria can make its way into the urinary system in different ways, these can include:

Sexual intercourse

This may introduce bacteria into the bladder and can also bruise the urethra and bladder


This is a common cause in women as women have a shorter urethra than men. Also in women the urethra is closer to the anus.


Bubble baths and fragranced products can irritate the urethra and the bladder.


When pregnant, pressure from the uterus may result in incomplete emptying of the bladder, and this can encourage bacteria to grow.


The urine of someone with diabetes can contain a lot of sugar which can encourage bacteria growth. The bladder can also be affected by diabetes, preventing it from contracting and not emptying properly. This again, can encourage bacteria to grow.

Postmenopausal changes

Postmenopausal women experience a decrease in hormones which cause changes in the body. These changes may include reducing the normal defences of the urethra and allowing harmful bacteria to grow.


Bacteria may colonise in the urine if a catheter has been inserted into the bladder. If the catheter is in place for a long period of time, it is inevitable that the bacteria will grow and the bladder will then become infected.

Kidney / bladder stones

These can cause urine to stagnate in the bladder and this will encourage the growth of bacteria and act as a focus for infection.

Bacterial cystitis Symptoms

The following symptoms may indicate that you are suffering from cystitis:

  • A frequent and pressing urge to pass urine, while only being able to produce small amounts
  • Pain, usually burning or stinging, when passing urine
  • Having to get up several times in the night to go to the toilet
  • Blood in the urine
  • A strong or “fishy” smell to the urine
  • You may also have a fever, feel generally unwell, or have a dull ache in your lower abdomen and back. These symptoms may mean the infection has spread to the kidneys, so you should contact your GP as soon as possible.

Diagnosing Bacterial cystitis

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, you should visit your GP who will ask for a urine sample to aid diagnosis.

Bacterial cystitis Complications

When treated promptly and properly, bladder infections rarely lead to complications. But left untreated, they can become something more serious. Complications may include:

  • Kidney infection. An untreated bladder infection can lead to kidney infection, also called pyelonephritis (pie-uh-low-nuh-FRY-tis). Kidney infections may permanently damage your kidneys.Young children and older adults are at the greatest risk of kidney damage from bladder infections because their symptoms are often overlooked or mistaken for other conditions.
  • Blood in the urine. With cystitis, you may have blood cells in your urine that can be seen only with a microscope (microscopic hematuria) and that usually resolves with treatment. If blood cells remain after treatment, your doctor may recommend a specialist to determine the cause.Blood in the urine that you can see (gross hematuria) is rare with typical, bacterial cystitis, but this sign is more common with chemotherapy- or radiation-induced cystitis.

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