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Cystitis: Risk Factors and Treatment

WebMD Feature

"I woke up one morning and every time I had to urinate it became more and more painful," says Amy, a 28-year-old publicist. The pain worsened throughout the day until she noticed she was "peeing pink."

"I thought it was because I was drinking so much cranberry juice," she says. It turned out the discoloration was due to blood in her urine, caused by a bladder infection (cystitis).

Such infections occur when bacteria (usually E. coli, normally found in the colon) enter the bladder. Cystitis is the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), a prevalent disorder that leads to about 9.6 million doctor visits annually, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Women are especially at risk, with one in five developing a UTI during her lifetime.

It's important to seek treatment for a bladder infection because it can lead to a kidney infection -- a more serious and potentially life-threatening disorder -- if not treated.

Women's Risk

While researchers still aren't clear why bladder infections are so common in women, it's thought to be because a woman's urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body) is short, and its opening is close to the anus, making it easy for bacteria to travel from the colon to the bladder.