What is Cystitis?

Cystitis is the medical term for acute or chronic inflammation and/or infection of the bladder. “This is an inflammation of the wall and lining of the urinary bladder that may be due to bacterial infection or to mechanical abrasion from microcrystals of calcium phosphate in urine.”¹

“The wall of the bladder sustains repeated irritation and scarring, leaving it slightly stiff. A stiff bladder has trouble contracting. The condition is painful. Those with interstitial cystitis often complain of symptoms similar to bacterial bladder infections except that no bacteria are present.”²  Interstitial cystitis refers to recurring episodes and constant symptoms of cystitis that is resistant to antibiotics.

The main symptoms are:

  • Strangury: an urgency to urinate even when the bladder is empty.
  • Dysuria: painful, burning urination.
  • Frequent urination and dribbling urination.
  • Cloudy, dark urine.
  • Haematuria: blood in the urine – usually when not due to infection.
  • Strong unpleasant odour.
  • Suprapubic tenderness.

On an energetic level cystitis that is due to infection is less serious than inflammation due to irritation or injury, however in cases of infection early detection and treatment is important to prevent infection spreading to the upper urinary tract and kidneys. Cystitis affects more women than men. “More than half of all women get at least one bladder infection at some time in their lives. However, a man’s chance of getting cystitis increases as he ages, due to in part to an increase in prostate size. … In men, a bladder infection may be a symptom of an underlying disorder and is generally a cause for concern.”³  Symptoms of cystitis in children would also warrant further investigation.

Possible causes of Cystitis

“Men can develop bladder infections, especially if they have an enlarged prostate gland, but this problem strikes mostly women. … More than 20 percent of women who develop bladder infections have three or more a year.”4
“Certain other populations are also at a higher risk for developing cystitis. They include the elderly and people with a history of kidney stones, kidney disease, or chronic conditions that affect the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS and diabetes. People who have an indwelling catheter in their bladder are also at risk.”5

Physical

Poor hygiene habits, such as after defecation wiping from front-to-back, rather than in the direction of the groin, are a primary cause of infection. Most urine infections are caused by bacteria (Escherichia coli) that migrate from the bowel. “They cause no harm in your bowel but can cause infection if they get into other parts of your body. Some bacteria thrive in urine and multiply quickly to cause infection.”6

Sexual intercourse can spread infection and cause inflammation due to friction. Barrier methods of contraception, spermicidal jellies and soaps are other sources of irritation to sensitive individuals. Post-menopausal women experiencing a drop in oestrogen, which is a natural lubricant, are also susceptible.
An insufficient intake of water or fluids and delaying micturition can irritate the bladder. Incomplete emptying of the bladder is often cited as a cause for infection. Pressure on the bladder during pregnancy can cause inflammation. “A small number of women (less than 20%) have bacteria present in their urine at all times, and it is this group who are particularly prone to cystitis in pregnancy. Cystitis does not have an adverse affect on the pregnancy or the baby, but an acute attack can cause premature labour.”7

Emotional

The energy of the kidneys and bladder is core to the flow and storage of energy, which can affect your sense of physical and emotional security, identity and self-expression. When the kidneys and bladder are struggling it can affect your ability to feel grounded and leave you feeling vulnerable to the judgement of self and others.

The primary emotion linked to the kidneys is fear. Habitual and prolonged periods of stress and overwork can inhibit the free-flow of creative energy and lower immunity. Kidney and bladder conditions put the focus on affirming and strengthening one’s sense of identity, security and creative expression. Healing therapies such as mindfulness, or any uncensored creative pursuit would benefit emotional well-being.

Mental

One of the essential tasks of the kidneys is to filter and excrete metabolic products, not only of the foods we consume but also experiences. Mentally this equates with one’s ability to evaluate and be decisive. Additionally, the urinary system assists the body in maintaining homeostasis through fluid and salt balance, pH balance, blood composition and volume. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance promotes a healthy response to stress and life’s challenges.

The bladder is about control; disruption of emotional and mental poise can leave one feeling vulnerable. In many school and work situations permission has to be sought to visit the bathroom. A need to urinate in tense or awkward situations is often perceived as an undesirable sign of weakness and a loss of mental and emotional equilibrium.

Related posts:

Herbal Medicine for Cystitis

The genital urinary system

References

(1) Hoffmann D. Medical Herbalism. Rochester, Vermont. Healing Arts Press; 2003. P. 379.
(2) What is Cystitis? Online article. Available at: http://www.health-mind-body.com/cystitis.html
(accessed 12 May 2014)

(3) Understanding Bladder Infections — the Basics. Online article. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/understanding-bladder-infections-basic-information (accessed 18 May 2014)
(4) Duke J. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus Pennsylvania. Rodale Press. 1997. P. 81.
(5) Cystitis. Online article. Available at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/c/cystitis/intro.htm
(accessed 16 May 2014)

(6) Kenny Dr. T. Recurrent Cystitis in Women. Online article. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/health/recurrent-cystitis-in-women (accessed 12 May 2014)
(7) Cystitis. Online article. Available at: http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=1170&ss=cystitis (accessed 12 May 2014)

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