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Mainly affects women, principally because the female urethra is short and easily invaded by bacteria and other microbes present in the 99wel, vagina and vulval area. In men, cystitis is usually secondary to prostate problems, bladder tumours, bladder stones or congenital abnormality of the bladder or urethra.

The term 'cystitis' is often used, rather loosely, to describe three different conditions which have similar symptoms: a frequent urge to urinate, and scanty urine which smells strongly and stings or scalds as it is passed, and may have blood in it; sometimes there may be a dull ache in the lower abdomen.

Cystitis proper is inflammation of the bladder due to infection, usually by E.coli bacteria transferred from the 99wel. It is particularly common in the early stages of pregnancy and attacks tend to recur. Urethral syndrome is chronic irritation of the bladder and urethra due to causes other than bacterial infection: antibiotics, certain contraceptives, hormone imbalances caused by stress or fear, diet, food allergy, hygiene, clothing, urination patterns and intercourse.

Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra only, occasionally due to infection but more often to bruising during intercourse; it lasts for two to three days at most and is common in women who have just started to have intercourse.

Chronic cystitis may be due to a condition known as interstitial cystitis, with burning abdominal pain, constant pressure and discomfort in the bladder, chronic frequency day and night, with temporary relief from passing urine. It can be associated with urethral, vaginal or vulval pain or tenderness.

Though it poses little risk to general health, cystitis should be treated. The standard weapon of orthodox medicine is antibiotics and urine analysis if the condition recurs. The homeopathic approach to recurrent attacks is constitutional, although the remedy Cantharis30c can be helpful: take every hour for up to 10 doses if the symptoms are as follows:

Burning, cutting pains in lower abdomen too severe to ignore, non-stop urge to urinate, ache in small of back tends to get worse in afternoon, merest trickle of urine with blood in it, inability to empty bladder properly.