Cystitis occurs when there is inflammation in your bladder.
This inflammation often happens due to a urinary tract infection (UTI). You can treat cystitis with a short course of antibiotics.
You might have cystitis if you have a burning sensation when you pee or feel the need to pee more often. You might also have strong smelling or cloudy urine.
You can treat cystitis at home by making sure you drink plenty of water and go to the toilet when you need to. If your symptoms do not improve after 3 days of home treatment, you’ll need antibiotics to help your recovery.
It’s important to get treated for cystitis as soon as possible. An untreated infection can lead to a more serious kidney infection as the bacteria spreads up the urinary tract.
You can request a UTI TestCard from ZAVA to check if you have cystitis. This is similar to the test that your doctor would do, but you can do this from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a compatible mobile phone.
You can also request a short course of antibiotic treatment, such as nitrofurantoin (MacroBID) or trimethoprim. Simply fill out our short consultation questionnaire which our doctors will review. We can then send the treatment straight to your door if it is suitable for you. You can also choose to collect the treatment or TestCard from your local Post Office. This service is only offered to women under 65.
About cystitis treatment
Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder usually caused by an infection in your lower urinary tract. It’s not always caused by bacteria, but this is the most common cause.
Bacterial cystitis occurs more often in women than men. This is because bacteria can travel easily through the shorter urethra that women have. Bacteria found in your poo, such as E. coli, can cause a bladder infection. This can happen if you wipe back to front when going to the toilet.
Antibiotics are not always needed to treat cystitis as your body might clear the infection on its own. If the symptoms of cystitis have not improved within 3 days, speak to your doctor to get treatment for the infection.
The symptoms of cystitis include:
- needing to pee more frequently
- a burning or stinging sensation when you pee
- dark coloured, cloudy or bad smelling urine
- pain in your lower tummy
- pain during sexual intercourse
Sometimes, the symptoms of cystitis can be confused with other vaginal infections. These include bacterial vaginosis and thrush. Both of these infections can change your vaginal discharge, whereas in cystitis you should not see any change.
If the infection spreads to your kidneys, you’ll need stronger treatment. Symptoms of a kidney infection include:
- feeling sick or being sick
- sharp pain on one side of your back
- a tender abdomen
- blood in your urine
If you cannot wait for a doctor’s appointment, you can request a UTI TestCard through ZAVA. Our UTI TestCard will quickly identify if you have a UTI, and you can do the test from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a mobile phone that is compatible with the TestCard.
It’s important to identify if the infection is a UTI. Treating the wrong infections with antibiotics can give you problems with taking antibiotics in the future.
Cystitis can be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are not available over the counter as you’ll need a prescription from a doctor first, or through an online doctor service like ZAVA.
If this is your first cystitis infection or you do not get cystitis very often, you’ll be given a short course of antibiotics. This is usually for 3 days.
Different antibiotics can be used to treat cystitis, including nitrofurantoin, trimethoprim or amoxicillin. Your doctor will review your general health and check if you have allergies before giving you antibiotics.
You can request nitrofurantoin treatment for cystitis from ZAVA. Nitrofurantoin is also known as the brand name MacroBID. Nitrofurantoin works by killing the bacteria in your urinary tract.
You’ll take 1 capsule twice a day for 3 days. You can take MacroBID with or after food.
Remember to space the doses out evenly, such as in the morning with breakfast and in the evening after dinner. Always finish the full course of antibiotics to make sure the infection is fully treated.
If nitrofurantoin is not suitable for you, a doctor may recommend trimethoprim instead.
If you take nitrofurantoin to treat cystitis, you might feel some side effects. Not everyone gets side effects when taking antibiotics.
Nitrofurantoin has very few side effects and is generally a well tolerated medication. You may feel sick when taking the first few doses but this will disappear after a few hours.
Remember to take nitrofurantoin with food to reduce the side effects it can have on your stomach. Sometimes nitrofurantoin might change the colour of your urine and it will look darker than usual. This is temporary and will stop once you finish the treatment course.
If you take trimethoprim as a cystitis treatment, one of the most common side effects is thrush.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak to your doctor for alternative UTI treatment.
You can treat the symptoms of cystitis at home. These self care tips are useful in managing the symptoms of cystitis whether or not you’re taking antibiotics.
If you’re in pain from the infection, you can take over the counter painkillers like paracetamol if you’re able to take it. Heat pads or a hot water bottle can also be useful in soothing back pain associated with cystitis.
Avoid using perfumed hygiene products as they can irritate your genital area. Always go to the toilet when you need to and avoid holding your pee in.
You should avoid foods and drinks high in sugar. Sugary foods make it easier for bacteria to grow and spread.
You can also wear cotton underwear and loose clothing when recovering from cystitis. This will keep the area comfortable and less prone to irritation.
The causes of cystitis include bacterial infection or side effects from medication. You can also get cystitis if your genitals are irritated from using hygiene products.
Bacterial cystitis can happen when bacteria from your poo is transferred to your urethra. This occurs if you wipe back to front when going to the toilet.
Other triggers for cystitis include sex, being pregnant or using spermicide with contraception. Certain health conditions can also make it more likely for you to get cystitis. These include diabetes, being immunocompromised or having a catheter.
Knowing what triggers cystitis for you is important, so you can manage the condition.
To avoid getting cystitis, make sure you:
- drink plenty of fluids, especially water
- use water to wipe your genitals and keep the area dry
- wipe from the front to the back after using the toilet
- take showers instead of baths
- pee as soon as you can after having sex
Cystitis is a common infection so do not worry if you think you have it. Following the above steps will help to reduce your chance of getting cystitis.
Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Expansion
Babak studied medicine at King’s College London and graduated in 2003, having also gained a bachelor’s degree in Physiology during his time there. He completed his general practice (GP) training in East London, where he worked for a number of years as a partner at a large inner-city GP practice. He completed the Royal College of GPs membership exam in 2007.Meet our doctors
Last reviewed: 03 May 2022