How to Prevent Cystitis

It's important to practice proper vaginal hygiene and care when having sex in order to prevent cystitis. This type of infection is common.
How to Prevent Cystitis
Samuel Antonio Sánchez Amador

Written and verified by el biólogo Samuel Antonio Sánchez Amador.

Last update: 28 June, 2023

Cystitis is a fairly common clinical condition in the female population. 10% of women between 16 and 35 years old have a urinary tract infection (UTI) each year, and the probability of developing one throughout the life of a female person is up to 60%. These figures show the need to prevent cystitis in the adult population.

Inflammation of the bladder is a condition that’s usually infectious in nature but sometimes occurs due to certain treatments (radiation therapy and medications) or habits of personal hygiene and prevention of pregnancy (spermicidal gels, certain fragrances, and vaginal creams). Keep reading if you want to know how to prevent this bothersome disease.

What is cystitis?

Before approaching the prevention of any condition, it’s important to learn about it at the etiological level. As indicated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), cystitis is an inflammation of the lining of the urinary bladder, with or without infection. It can have different causes, although in most cases, Gram-negative bacteria are the main suspects.

When cystitis is caused by bacteria, it’s included in the group of urinary tract infections (UTIs). However, bladder inflammation can also find its cause in aggressive treatment with radiotherapy, the application of toxic compounds on the bladder mucosa, epithelial metaplasias, and many other conditions.

Symptoms of cystitis

A woman holding her hands over her genital region.
The symptoms of cystitis are obvious, as they appear directly when urinating. Occasionally, general manifestations, such as mild fever, may occur.

Preventing a disease always goes through the description of its symptoms, as pathological progression can sometimes be nipped in the bud if the first clinical signs are detected frequently. The symptoms of cystitis go through the following points:

  1. The persistent need to urinate
  2. Increased need to urinate at night (nocturia)
  3. Increased volume of urination (polyuria)
  4. Burning and stinging sensation when urinating (dysuria)
  5. Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  6. Cloudy urine with a very strong odor
  7. Discomfort and pain at the pelvic level
  8. Difficulty urinating
  9. Low fever

As indicated by the Universidad Clínica Navarra (CUN), cystitis almost never appears with a high fever. If this is the case, it’s most likely that another organ has been infected with the bacteria that cause bladder inflammation. If the kidneys are affected, the condition is called acute pyelonephritis.

Who’s most affected by this clinical picture?

According to scientific research, approximately 1/3 of the world’s women will have had a UTI by age 24, while this figure increases to 50% by age 32. The annual incidence is placed in 12% of the inhabitants of the female gender every year in any place, a value much higher than that reported in the male population.

Cystitis normally occurs due to an infection by bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract (Escherichia coli in 95% of cases). This is much more common in the female gender, as the anus and the vagina are in close contact at the anatomical level. Men are protected by a much longer urethra, a dry periurethral environment, and the secretion of antibacterials in the prostate fluid.

Despite this reason, uncomplicated cystitis can also appear with some regularity in men between 15 and 50 years of age, especially in those who are sexually active.

How to prevent cystitis?

Now you know what cystitis is, what the most important symptoms are, and the population sector most prone to it. In the following paragraphs, we’ll show you how to prevent cystitis in detail with a series of medical indications. Keep reading!

1. Drink lots of fluids, especially water

As indicated by studies collected by the Mayo Clinic, women who drink an additional 1.5 liters of water than the average (about 2 liters) each day are much less susceptible to urinary tract infections (including cystitis). In fact, the same source estimates that 50% of mild UTIS can be treated only by drinking high amounts of water.

This home remedy makes all the sense in the world. The more low-concentrated fluid that’s released into the urinary environment, the more bacteria will be entrained and passively excreted. In other words, if a person urinates a lot, it’s easier to get rid of a minor infection in less time.

In addition to drinking water, the Mayo Clinic recommends consuming slightly acidic juices, such as natural blueberry smoothies. Scientific results aren’t conclusive on this front, but it never hurts to try fresh juices together with water consumption to hinder bacterial growth in the bladder environment.

Concentrated urine is the perfect culture medium for pathogenic bacteria. Drink lots of water and go to the bathroom regularly.

2. Urinate frequently

The small size of a newborn baby’s bladder means that they need to urinate every hour or so. On the other hand, this compartment stores 400-600 milliliters in an adult human being and takes 8-9 hours to fill, at a rate of about 60 milliliters per hour.

The average rate of urination in adults is 3-4 times every 24 hours, although certain people may have the need to pee 7-8 times a day without any underlying disease. Even though you’re working or you can’t waste time during your routine, remember that you must urinate every time your body asks you to.

If you don’t empty your bladder every time you need to, you’re indirectly favoring the concentration of urine and the deposition of bacteria in the bladder tissue.

3. Protect yourself during sexual activity to prevent cystitis

Putting on a condom not only prevents both parties from getting urinary tract infections, it also protects against more serious conditions (such as HIV or unwanted pregnancy). This advice is especially applicable to the male gender, as one of the few ways to get a UTI in men is to practice anal sex without any type of protection.

It’s important to urinate after sexual activity (especially if the couple doesn’t use a condom and prefers the use of contraceptives). Although this measure isn’t infallible, it helps both men and women to get rid of the germs that have settled in the urethra after the mechanical action of penetration.

If sex doesn’t involve penetration, it’s not necessary to urinate after the act.

4. Clean your intimate area always from front to back

This way of preventing cystitis applies only to females, because as we’ve said, in this gender, the urethra is very close to the anus. The main pathogen that causes bladder infection is E. coli, a resident bacterium of the gastrointestinal tract that’s excreted in the feces. With these data, the recommendation is self-explanatory.

Cleaning from front to back after defecation prevents bacteria from being carried from the anal to the vaginal environment. This prevents microorganisms from entering the urethra and thereby colonizing the bladder. As you can imagine, in men, this sanitation isn’t so necessary, as the urethra is very far from the anus.

5. Don’t use highly perfumed or aggressive intimate hygiene products

Maintaining the proper pH in the vaginal area is essential, as the bacteria that live in the genital cavities protect us from external infections. The bacteria of the genus Lactobacillus secrete substances that keep the vaginal environment slightly acidic and uninhabitable for certain organisms (pH 4.5-5) and even actively compete against pathogens and prevent their fixation.

If you use highly perfumed soaps and lotions in the vaginal environment, you’ll surely be killing part of the beneficial bacteria, as certain chemicals modify the surface pH of the tissues. For this reason, you should use specific elements for the vagina that are without odor and without extreme properties.

The presence of Lactobacillus acidophilus in the vaginal microbiota reduces the probability of fixation of pathogens such as Candida albicans.

6. Shower instead of bathing to prevent cystitis

Showering rather than bathing is recommended if you’re susceptible to urinary tract infections. Water is an excellent medium for bacteria to travel from the anus to the vagina, so the advice is self-explanatory: If you stay submerged for a long time in bath water, you’re indirectly encouraging microorganisms to travel through the body.

As indicated by the media, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that showers last no more than 5 minutes. Therefore, a sustainable use of the water resource is achieved and wrinkling of the skin is avoided (among many other things).

7. Control your diabetes to prevent cystitis

To prevent cystitis, glycemia must be controlled.
Patients with poorly controlled diabetes tend to be immunosuppressed, which favors the development of urinary infections and their complications.

As cited sources indicate, bacteria in urine appear in 26% of diabetic women compared to 6% in the general female population. It has been scientifically confirmed that people with type 2 diabetes are more prone to recurrent UTIs. In addition, their prognosis is considerably worse.

For this reason, diabetic people are advised to always keep their blood glucose levels under control. Sometimes exogenous insulin administration is required, while in other cases, exercising, making certain key dietary changes, and taking oral hypoglycemic agents is sufficient.

8. Avoid using a diaphragm if it brings you complications

The diaphragm is a contraceptive device that prevents sperm from entering the uterus. It’s a small piece of silicone or rubber surrounded by a flexible ring that covers the tissue of the cervix. It’s sprayed with spermicide and is only used during sexual intercourse (it’s removed 6 to 24 hours after the act).

The biggest problem with diaphragms is the spermicide that must be applied to it to maximize its effectiveness. This gel can damage the cells that line the vagina, leading to an increased risk of a sexually transmitted disease (STD), vaginal irritation, and urinary tract infections (including cystitis).

If you associate the use of the diaphragm with recurrent cystitis, the best thing you can do is go to your gynecologist and discuss a possible more effective contraceptive method. The use of a condom by your partner or birth control pills are some of the options.

Preventing cystitis is a matter of hygiene and foresight

This space has been focused on the prevention of cystitis in the female sphere, as women are much more likely to present this type of disease. Proper hygiene of the vaginal environment is always the first step to avoid UTIs, but certain changes in routine also protect women more against this type of infection.

Drinking a lot of water, urinating after having sex, choosing the right contraceptive method, and always wearing clean clothes are some of the measures you can take to avoid such annoying medical conditions. If you’re diagnosed with cystitis, take the prescribed antibiotics following the doctor’s instructions.

Este texto se ofrece únicamente con propósitos informativos y no reemplaza la consulta con un profesional. Ante dudas, consulta a tu especialista.