Mild cystitis will usually clear up on its own within a few days, although sometimes you may need to take antibiotics.
See your GP for advice and treatment if:
- you're not sure whether you have cystitis
- your symptoms don't start to improve within a few days
- you get cystitis frequently
- you have severe symptoms, such as blood in your urine
- you're pregnant and have symptoms of cystitis
- you're a man and have symptoms of cystitis
- your child has symptoms of cystitis
Women who have had cystitis before don't necessarily need to see their GP if the condition returns, as mild cases often get better without antibiotics. You can try the self-help measures below or ask your pharmacist for advice.
Things you can try yourself
If you've had cystitis before and don't feel you need to see your GP, the following advice may help to relieve your symptoms until the condition clears up:
- take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – always read the medicine information leaflet beforehand to check whether you can take it, and check with your pharmacist if you're not sure
- drink plenty of water – it's been suggested this may help flush the infection out of your bladder and some people find it helpful, although it's not clear how effective it actually is
- use a hot water bottle – holding a hot water bottle on your tummy or between your thighs may reduce any discomfort
- don't have sex until you're feeling better, because it may make the condition worse
Some people find drinking cranberry juice or using products that reduce the acidity of their urine (such as sodium bicarbonate or potassium citrate) reduce their symptoms, but there's a lack of evidence to suggest they're effective.
These products are also not suitable for everyone. Check with your GP or pharmacist before trying them if you're taking any other medication.
In some cases, your GP may prescribe a course of antibiotics. This will usually involve taking a tablet or capsule two to four times a day for three days.
Antibiotics should start to have an effect quite quickly. Return to your GP if your symptoms haven't started to improve within a few days.
Most people won't have any side effects from antibiotic treatment, but possible side effects can include feeling or being sick, itching, a rash and diarrhoea.
If cystitis keeps coming back
If you keep getting cystitis (known as recurrent cystitis) your doctor may prescribe stand-by antibiotics or continuous antibiotics.
A stand-by antibiotic is a prescription you can take to a pharmacy the next time you have symptoms of cystitis, without needing to visit your GP first.
Continuous antibiotics are taken for several months to prevent further episodes of cystitis. These may be prescribed:
- if cystitis usually occurs after having sex – you may be given a prescription for antibiotics to take within two hours of having sex
- if cystitis is not related to having sex – you may be given a low-dose antibiotic to take for a trial period of six months
Your doctor may also recommend some measures you can take to prevent cystitis, although it's not clear how effective these are.