Cystitis is a very common condition. Half of all women will get it at least once in their life, and around 1 in 5 women who have had it before will get it again. Cystitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection in the bladder, leading to inflammation, and in most cases it can be very easily treated.
What are the symptoms of cystitis?
The common symptoms of cystitis are:
- pain or a stinging sensation when you urinate
- needing to urinate often, but only passing small amounts each time
- dark, strong-smelling urine
- blood in your urine
- pain in your belly or lower back
- feeling feverish
It is important to bear in mind, however, that these symptoms may be occurring as a result of another medical condition such as a sexually transmitted infection, inflammation of the urethra, vaginal thrush (in women) or prostatitis (in men).
If you suspect you might have a sexually transmitted infection, you can visit our sexual health clinic for advice, tests and treatments.
What treatments are there for cystitis?
Mild cystitis does not always require medical treatment. In many cases it will clear up on its own after a few days. The first time you get cystitis, however, you should always visit your GP. After this you will be familiar with the symptoms and be able to decide whether you require antibiotics or not.
Treating cystitis at home
If you have mild symptoms that have just come on, then there are some ways you can treat your cystitis at home and help clear up the infection:
- drinking lots of water
- taking over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol
- refraining from sex
- soothing your discomfort with a hot water bottle
- avoiding alcohol, fruit juice and caffeine
If your cystitis persists for more than a few days then you should seek medical help - if left untreated, the infection could spread to your kidneys, making it a medical emergency. If you develop a high fever, severe pain or if your symptoms worsen you should see a doctor immediately.
Treating cystitis with medicine
Your GP will normally prescribe you a short course of antibiotics, such as Nitrofurantoin or Trimethoprim. If you have been diagnosed with cystitis before and would like to treat it with antibiotics, you can order a course of Nitrofurantoin or Trimethoprim from our online cystitis clinic.
If you have had three or more episodes of cystitis in the last year or 2 episodes in the last 6 months, you should see your GP, as you may need additional tests.
If you find that antibiotics are not helping your cystitis at all, then you should consult a doctor.
What ways are there to prevent cystitis?
Cystitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection although often there is no obvious reason why the urinary tract gets infected. There are some steps you can take that may help prevent cystitis:
- wearing loose cotton underwear
- avoid wearing tight jeans or trousers
- wiping from front to back after going to the toilet
- not holding in urine when you feel the urge to go
- emptying your bladder as soon as possible after having sex
- using unscented soaps to wash around your genitals
- having a shower rather than a bath
- avoiding constipation
Read our article on cystitis causes for more information.