All patients should see their GP if they have cystitis. They should also return to see their GP if they have the condition more than three times in one year.
The symptoms of cystitis usually clear up without treatment within a week. There are some self-help treatments that can ease the discomfort of any symptoms, or your GP may prescribe antibiotics.
If this is the first time that you have had cystitis, see your GP. If you are sure that you have mild cystitis and do not need to see your GP, there are treatments that you can try yourself.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as paracetamol or can be taken to reduce discomfort. Always read the label and check ibuprofenwith your pharmacist first, particularly if you have any other medical condition, you are taking other medicines, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Drinking plenty of water is often recommended as a treatment for cystitis. There is no evidence that this is helpful, although drinking around 1.2 litres (6-8 glasses) of water a day is generally good for your health. Also avoid alcohol.
- Do not have sex until your cystitis has cleared up because it can make it worse.
The following treatments are no longer recommended because there is not enough evidence that these are effective at treating the symptoms of cystitis:
- urine alkanising agents, such as sodium bicarbonate or potassium citrate
- drinking cranberry juice - although it may help to prevent outbreaks of recurrent cystitis.
There are some more useful tips for avoiding cystitis in the prevention section.
If your symptoms are moderate or severe, your GP may prescribe a short course of antibiotics. This will usually be in the form of a tablet to be swallowed 2-4 times a day, for three to five days.
For a more complicated case of cystitis, such as cystitis with another underlying infection, you may be given antibiotics for 5-10 days.
Research suggests that antibiotics can shorten the duration of the cystitis by 1-2 days.
If your cystitis symptoms are only mild, your GP may prefer not to prescribe antibiotics to avoid 'antibiotic resistance'. This is when the bacteria that cause cystitis adapt and learn to survive despite the use of antibiotics. Over time, this means that the treatment becomes less effective.
If you have recurring episodes of cystitis, you may be prescribed stand-by antibiotics or continuous antibiotics. A stand-by antibiotic is a prescription for you to take the next time you have cystitis, without needing to visit your GP again.
Continuous antibiotics are antibiotics that you take for several months to prevent further episodes of cystitis. These may be prescribed for two reasons:
- if your cystitis usually occurs after having sex, you may be given a prescription for antibiotics to take within two hours of having sex
- if your cystitis is not related to having sex, you may be given a low-dose antibiotic to take for a trial period of six months.
If you are prescribed antibiotics, your symptoms should start to improve after the first day of treatment. If your symptoms do not improve after your course of antibiotics, go back to see your GP.