Skip to main content
Cystitis

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bladder infection.

It's a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), particularly in women, and is usually more of a nuisance than a cause for serious concern.

Mild cases will often get better by themselves within a few days.

But some people experience episodes of cystitis frequently and may need regular or long-term treatment.

There's also a chance that cystitis could lead to a more serious kidney infection in some cases, so it's important to seek medical advice if your symptoms do not improve.

The main symptoms of cystitis include:

Possible symptoms in young children include:

Women do not necessarily need to see a GP if they have cystitis, as mild cases often get better without treatment.

Try some self-help measures or ask a pharmacist for advice.

See a GP if:

A GP should be able to diagnose cystitis by asking about your symptoms.

They may test a sample of your urine for bacteria to help confirm the diagnosis.

Most cases are thought to occur when bacteria that live harmlessly in the bowel or on the skin get into the bladder through the tube that carries urine out of your body (urethra).

It's not always clear how this happens.

But some things can increase your risk of getting it, including:

Women may get cystitis more often than men because their bottom (anus) is closer to their urethra and their urethra is much shorter, which means bacteria may be able to get into the bladder more easily.

If you have been having mild symptoms for less than 3 days or you have had cystitis before and do not feel you need to see a GP, you may want to treat your symptoms at home or ask a pharmacist for advice.

Until you're feeling better, it may help to:

Some people believe that cranberry drinks and products that reduce the acidity of their urine (such as sodium bicarbonate or potassium citrate) will help.

But there's a lack of evidence to suggest they're effective.

If you see a GP and they diagnose you with cystitis, you'll usually be prescribed a course of antibiotics to treat the infection.

These should start to have an effect within a day or 2.

If you keep getting cystitis, a GP may give you an antibiotic prescription to take to a pharmacy whenever you develop symptoms, without needing to see a doctor first.

Your GP can also prescribe a low dose of antibiotics for you to take continuously over several months.

If you get cystitis frequently, there are some things you can try that may stop it coming back.

But it's not clear how effective most of these measures are.

These measures include:

Drinking cranberry juice has traditionally been recommended as a way of reducing your chances of getting cystitis.

But large studies have suggested it does not make a significant difference.

If you have long-term or frequent pelvic pain and problems peeing, you may have a condition called interstitial cystitis.

This is a poorly understood bladder condition that mostly affects middle-aged women.

Unlike regular cystitis, there's no obvious infection in the bladder and antibiotics do not help.

But a doctor may be able to recommend a number of other treatments to reduce your symptoms.

Find out more about interstitial cystitis