Cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder, is one of the most common types of urinary tract infection (UTI) and affects more than 90% of women.

It is typically caused by bacteria invading the bladder wall. Pain when urinating or passing frequent, small amounts of urine are also signs of cystitis. So is blood in the urine, which can make it pink and cloudy — but it can indicate other problems such as bladder cancer, too.  Therefore, the finding of blood in the urine should be called to the attention of your doctor immediately.

Why is it more common in women than in men? The anus is closer to the urethra [the tract that carries urine from the bladder out of the body] in women and the urethra is shorter, which makes it more likely that bacteria will gain access from the outside of the body to the inside of the bladder.

UTIs should not be ignored since they can lead to more serious complications such as kidney infection as the bacteria travel up from the bladder.

The diagnosis is easily made by a urinalysis.  If there is evidence of an infection, a urine culture is obtained which identifies the best antibiotic to treat the infection.

For mild cystitis, drinking plenty of water can help flush out bacteria. Although many people believe that cranberry juice can help, recent research found no evidence that the fruit, taken as capsules, made any difference to decrease the bacteria in urine.

To prevent UTIs, wearing clean cotton underwear, avoiding perfumed products and wet wipes, which can be irritating, and wiping front-to-back are effective. Always urinating at bedtime and after sex intimacy—during which bacteria can transfer to the urethra.

Bottom Line: UTIs are a common problem affecting millions of American women.  Most infections can be treated with oral antibiotics.  However, if you have several infections in a year, then it is important to see your doctor and more studies or x-rays may be necessary.