Cystitis - acute


Acute cystitis is a bacterial infection of the bladder or lower urinary tract. Acute means sudden or severe.

Alternative Names

Uncomplicated urinary tract infection; UTI - acute; Acute bladder infection; Acute bacterial cystitis


Cystitis is caused by germs, usually bacteria that enter the urethra and then the bladder. These bacteria can lead to infection, most commonly in the bladder. The infection can spread to the kidneys.

Most of the time, your body can get rid of these bacteria when you urinate. However, sometimes the bacteria can stick to the wall of the urethra or bladder, or grow so fast that some bacteria stay in the bladder.

Women tend to get infections more often than men because their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus. For this reason, women are more likely to get an infection after sexual intercourse or when using a diaphragm for birth control. Menopause also increases the risk for a urinary tract infection.

The following also increase your chances of developing cystitis:

Most cases are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a type of bacteria found in the intestines.


The symptoms of a bladder infection include:

Often in an elderly person, mental changes or confusion are the only signs of a possible urinary tract infection.

Exams and Tests

A urine sample is usually collected to perform the following tests:


Antibiotics taken by mouth are usually recommended because there is a risk that the infection can spread to the kidneys.

Your doctor may also recommend drugs to relieve the burning pain and urgent need to urinate. Phenazopyridine hydrochloride (Pyridium) is the most common of this type of drug. You will still need to take antibiotics.

Everyone with a bladder infection should drink plenty of water.

Some women have repeat or recurrent bladder infections. Your doctor may suggest several different ways of treating these.

Over-the-counter products that increase acid in the urine, such as ascorbic acid or cranberry juice, may be recommended to decrease the concentration of bacteria in the urine.

Follow-up may include urine cultures to make sure the bacterial infection is gone.

Lifestyle changes may help prevent some urinary tract infections.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most cases of cystitis are uncomfortable, but go away without complications after treatment.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:


Gupta K, Hooton TM, Naber KG, et al. International clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of acute uncomplicated cystitis and pyelonephritis in women: A 2010 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the European Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Clin Infect Dis. 2011 Mar;52(5):e103-20.  

Review Date: 9/17/2010
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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