What is chronic cystitis?
Many of us will have experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a bout of cystitis at some point in our lives; however, if the problem is persistent, it can easily get you down and you may find yourself asking: ‘Why me?’, ‘Why do I keep getting cystitis?’.
Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder. Chronic cystitis means this inflammation is more consistent and is proving hard to shift, which means you’re more likely to suffer from recurrent symptoms. Symptoms of cystitis include frequent, sudden urges to urinate, burning upon urinating, pelvic discomfort and even blood in your urine. Unsurprisingly, this can prove uncomfortable, inconvenient and may even affect relationships.
What can cause chronic cystitis?
If you suffer from chronic cystitis you might wonder what the cause is, and this is an important first step in managing the condition. Here, I run through some common causes:
1. Failed attempts at treating acute cystitis
The majority of cases of cystitis are caused by bacterial infections. As a result of this, a trip to the doctors will often result in a course of antibiotics. However, what if the meds aren’t doing the trick? Antibiotic resistance or using medications incorrectly (such as not finishing the course of medication, which can then also contribute to antibiotic resistance), could partly be to blame, or perhaps the underlying cause may not have been correctly identified in the first place...
2. Interstitial or non-infectious cystitis
Although infections are most often at the root of the cause when it comes to cystitis, especially in some cases of chronic cystitis, interstitial cystitis or non-infectious cystitis may be contributing instead.
Although the causes of interstitial cystitis aren’t well understood, it’s thought that stress could potentially be having an impact. Click the link for more.
3. Existing medical conditions
If you suffer from recurrent bouts of cystitis, it’s possible that another underlying health condition could be contributing to your symptoms.
Kidney stones, diabetes, candida or sexually transmitted diseases can all upset the structure or function of the urinary tract and, therefore, contribute to infections.
A special note for men...
If you’re male and struggling with symptoms of cystitis, it’s possible that an enlarged prostate could also be at the root of the cause.
After you’ve received a formal diagnosis from your doctor, an extract of Saw Palmetto, such as that in our Prostasan, could help to improve the state of the prostate and, in turn, help to alleviate some of the associated symptoms.
4. Medications to treat other conditions
If you’re on any medication from the doctor, it’s useful to consider any potential side effects.
Certain drugs could create inflammation throughout the digestive tract and medical devices such as catheters could also contribute to infections if they give bacteria means to collect in the wrong places.
5. Fluctuating hormones
Hormonal fluctuations could also be contributing to cystitis. If your symptoms are persistent, if they tend to crop up at certain times of the month or if you struggle with symptoms of PMS or menopause already, it’s possible that these could be having a part to play.
Hormones can have a significant impact on the mucous membranes that line our urinary tract and vagina. If these become drier with less mucus production, they can become more easily damaged and infection is more likely to set in.
6. Chemical cystitis
Chemical ingredients such as those found in personal hygiene products, bath products or cleaning products that come into contact with your skin can all aggravate cystitis.
Certain ingredients can risk upsetting the pH and/or the balance of bacteria in and around the urinary tract which can then allow infections to more easily set in. So, if these are a common feature in your routine, it might be worth considering switching to some more natural, gentler alternatives.
Tips for overcoming it...
If chronic cystitis is affecting you, attempting to identify the root of the cause is important. Urine tests with the doctor can often help to pick up infections, while identifying patterns in your symptoms can also be a good indicator.
Then, some top tips to help overcome some of the symptoms include the following:
1. Use antibiotics appropriately
As with any medication, if it doesn’t seem to be taking the edge off your symptoms, then a discussion needs to be had with your doctor to check that it’s the right one for you. Antibiotics are only appropriate for UTIs or cystitis if the root of the cause is an infection. Plus, if you are given a course, you should follow the instructions and always complete the course when instructed to do so.
If in any doubt, you should discuss with your doctor if antibiotics are definitely necessary. With their agreement, it might be feasible for you to try a course of Uva-Ursi instead.
You can take Uva-ursi 5 times daily and up to a period of 6 weeks at a time to help eradicate tricky infections. Of course, if your symptoms persist or get any worse, it would be time to return to your doctor for further advice.
2. Dietary tips
If chronic cystitis is getting you down, looking at your diet and lifestyle habits is often a good place to start.
Click the link for some more in-depth dietary advice when it comes to cystitis; some quick tips include ensuring you drink plenty of water (at least 1.5l daily), and limit caffeine, alcohol and sugary foods or drinks.
3. Handle the hygiene habits
If your symptoms are recurrent, it’s important to try and identify any habits in your daily regime that could be contributing. Every day we’re washing, dressing and going to the loo and some of these routines (that we often don’t give a second thought!) could be having an influence.
Consider which toiletries you’re using in the bath or shower and ensure you wipe from front to back when going to the loo (simple, but important!). Even underwear choices could potentially be aggravating your symptoms, depending on different styles and materials. Ensure you pee after sex, too, which can help to flush any unwanted bacteria away before it has a chance to become established.
4. Tackle stress
Although we might not readily assume that stress and cystitis are closely related, there could actually be some sort of link.
Firstly, heightened stress levels can risk depleting our immune functions. In the case of infectious cystitis, we rely heavily on our immune system to detect any invading pathogens quickly, before they have a chance to take hold and give rise to infections.
On the contrary, stress could also have a part to play when it comes to non-infectious or interstitial cystitis. Although the exact causes of interstitial cystitis aren’t well understood, stress is thought to potentially have a part to play in many cases.