Mild cystitis will usually clear up on its own within a few days, although sometimes you may need to take antibiotics.
See a GP for advice and treatment if:
- you're not sure whether you have cystitis
- your symptoms don't start to improve within 3 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 or who have had mild symptoms for less than 3 days don't necessarily need to see a GP, as mild cases often get better without antibiotics.
You can try some self-help measures or ask a pharmacist for advice.
Things you can try yourself
If you have had cystitis before and don't feel you need to see a GP, or had mild symptoms for less than 3 days, 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 a pharmacist if you're not sure)
- drink plenty of water (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)
- don't have sex until you're feeling better as it may make the condition worse
Some people believe drinking cranberry juice or using products that lowers the acidity of their urine (such as sodium bicarbonate or potassium citrate) reduces their symptoms, but there's a lack of evidence to suggest they're effective.
These products also aren't suitable for everyone. Check with a GP or pharmacist before trying them if you're taking any other medication.
In some cases, a GP may prescribe a course of antibiotics. This will usually involve taking a tablet or capsule 2 to 4 times a day for 3 days.
For some women, they'll be prescribed for 5 to 10 days.
Antibiotics should start to have an effect quite quickly. Go back to your GP if your symptoms haven't started to improve within a few days.
If cystitis keeps coming back
If you keep getting cystitis (recurrent cystitis), a 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 a 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 2 hours of having sex)
- if cystitis isn't related to having sex (you may be given a low-dose antibiotic to take for a trial period of 6 months)
Your doctor may also recommend some measures you can take to prevent cystitis, although it's not clear how effective these are.