What is Acute Cystitis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2019
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Acute cystitis is an infection in the bladder or lower urinary tract that onsets suddenly and may be quite severe. It is often very painful for the patient. These infections usually run their course quickly and can be treated with medications to eradicate the infection and keep the patient more comfortable. A primary care provider can usually provide appropriate treatment, as can a urologist or gynecologist. People who suspect they may have cystitis or another infection should seek immediate treatment if they develop bloody urine, a high fever, or an altered level of consciousness.

Bladder infections are most common among sexually active women and older adults. In acute cystitis, the bacteria that are normally flushed out of the urinary tract during urination linger and begin to multiply. The patient can experience a frequent need to urinate, painful urination, cloudy urine, and strong smelling urine. Patients may also find that they urgently need to urinate, but cannot pass any urine.

Some patients can clear a case of acute cystitis on their own. Drinking lots of fluids helps, especially pure cranberry juice, as it can help to kill off the bacteria by increasing acidity. If the infection persists or is very painful, patients can go to the doctor. Antibiotics are usually prescribed and other medications may be offered to help patients relax so they can urinate. It is important to complete any course of medication prescribed, even if the patient starts to feel better.


The most common bacterial culprit behind acute cystitis is Escherichia coli. These bacteria are normally present in the gut and they are commonly found on the skin around the anus and genitals. People can reduce the risk of introducing bacteria into their urinary tracts by observing careful hygiene in the bathroom and washing after using the toilet. It is also important to wash the hands thoroughly before handling the genitals, as for example when a woman needs to insert a diaphragm.

People who have recurrent cases of acute cystitis may want to consider seeking an evaluation from a urologist. A medical specialist can conduct some diagnostic tests to find out more about why the patient experiences repeat infections. There may be medications or other treatments available to address the recurrent infections and some patients may also be provided with standing prescriptions for antibiotics to take when infections develop so they do not have to go to the doctor every time.


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