An introduction to preventing cystitis
Approximately 20% of women who have had a bout of cystitis will have a recurring infection, and this is most common amongst menopausal and post-menopausal women. After having had cystitis once, many people will do anything they can to avoid a repeat episode. While prevention of bladder infections is not 100%, thankfully there are many measures you can try that will help to reduce your risk of getting another bladder infection.
Some people may be particularly prone to developing Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), such as those with Multiple Sclerosis. If this is the case, and your cystitis is frequently recurring, your doctor may suggest taking a low dose of antibiotics continuously for six months to see if this helps to keep the infections at bay.
Alternatively, they may prescribe a course of antibiotics as a stand-by measure, which you only need to take if an infection begins. This way you will be able to start taking antibiotics as soon as possible.
There are several tips you can try which can help to prevent cystitis. Many of these focus on keeping the bladder area as healthy as possible, discouraging bacteria from settling there. These include:
- Avoid wearing nylon underwear and tights, and tightly fitting trousers. This is because these can create a warm and moist environment in which bacteria thrive. Instead, wear cotton underwear and loose fitting clothes
- Do not use strongly perfumed bubble bath or shower gel, as the chemicals can strip your urinary tract of essential bacteria and weaken the skin. It is also thought that taking showers rather than baths can help in the prevention of recurring infections
- Be careful when inserting tampons, diaphragms or catheters as these can easily be contaminated and give bacteria a very easy route into your body. Women should also take extra care to wipe from front to back after going to the toilet to take bacteria away from the urethra
- Make sure that you drink plenty of water as this ensures a regular flow of urine through your kidneys and bladder, helping to prevent unwanted bacteria from settling down and causing infection. Don’t ‘hold in’ going to the toilet, as this can damage the bladder, and can also cause urine to stagnate, becoming a breeding ground for bacteria.
Treat any underlying medical conditions
For some people, their cystitis is secondary to some other medical condition. For men, this is quite likely to be linked with an enlarged prostate.
The prostate gland is located around the neck of the bladder, so when it swells, it can both put pressure on the bladder, and 'squeeze' the urethra. This restricts the flow of urine out of the bladder, making it difficult to drain fully. The small pool of urine left in the bladder is an excellent environment in which bacteria can thrive, sometimes leading to cystitis. Thus, seeking treatment for the prostate is going to be the most effective way of preventing future bouts of cystitis.
Being constipated can also cause urine retention, as an enlarged bowel can put pressure on the bladder and restrict the flow of urine. As with an enlarged prostate, this can lead to a bacterial infection of the bladder. Thus, finding relief from constipation will help in the prevention of recurring cystitis.
There are many medical conditions, including diabetes and multiple sclerosis, which can increase your susceptibility to recurring infections. In such cases, discussing with your doctor the best ways to manage your condition may help with secondary problems, such as cystitis.
Many people look to herbal remedies as a preventative measure for cystitis, as these can be taken long term and without the associated side-effects of antibiotic use. Cranberry has traditionally been used in the prevention of cystitis. It forms a coat over the cell wall of the bacteria, preventing them from sticking to the bladder wall. If the bacteria are unable to lodge in the bladder, an infection can be averted.
Read our blog for more on what the research says when it comes to Cranberry Juice for cystitis.
Or why not consider trying our Cranberry Complex inctead. These tablets contain extracts of cranberry, together with a combination of other bladder-friendly herbs.
Uva-ursi is another herb that has traditional use in the treatment and prevention of cystitis. It acts specifically on the bladder, which it disinfects, removing unwanted bacteria from the body. Fresh extracts of this herb are available in the licensed herbal remedy A.Vogel Uva-ursi and Echinacea oral drops, which can be used alone or alongside cranberry to help prevent cystitis.