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Cystitis happens when there is inflammation in your bladder, and it’s usually caused by bacteria. These bacteria normally live in your bowels, but when they travel to your urinary tract it causes an infection. You might feel pain below your tummy and a burning or stinging pain when you pee.
You can treat cystitis by taking a course of antibiotics, such as nitrofurantoin (formerly sold as MacroBid). The antibiotic kills the bacteria that is causing the infection.
There are also some things you can do at home to help your symptoms of cystitis, like taking over the counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, and drinking plenty of water.
The main symptoms of cystitis include:
- having to pee more often than usual, especially overnight
- stinging, burning, or pain when you pee
- cloudy or smelly pee
- having to rush to the toilet
- pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen
- feeling generally unwell or tired
Cystitis can cause blood in the urine (pee). If this does not go away after you finish your treatment, or after all your other symptoms get better, you should see your doctor about this as soon as you can.
Other symptoms of a more serious infection are a high temperature (fever), pain in the flank areas of the back (the sides where the kidneys are), shivering or vomiting. If you have any of these you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Cystitis is irritation of the bladder. It is usually caused by bacteria from the skin or the bowel getting into the bladder. This happens through the tube where your urine (pee) comes out (your urethra). It is more common in women because this tube is shorter in women than in men.
Cystitis is not usually serious, but can be uncomfortable. For many patients, cystitis will get better on its own within a couple of days, but if it is not getting better or if the symptoms are severe, then treatment is recommended. Cystitis can lead to a more serious infection of the kidneys if it is not getting better on its own. Some people get urinary tract infections (UTIs) often, which is known as a recurrent UTI.
You can treat cystitis by using antibiotics. Because antibiotics kill the bacteria causing the cystitis infection, antibiotics are the most effective way to treat it. Lifestyle changes can help speed up the recovery process too, such as drinking enough water each day.
Antibiotics are medicines used to get rid of harmful bacteria. Nitrofurantoin is the antibiotic used to treat cystitis.
Each nitrofurantoin capsule contains 100mg of nitrofurantoin. You can take it to treat urinary tract infections like cystitis. You will usually take 1 100mg capsule twice a day for 3 days.
Antibiotic treatment is the best way to get rid of cystitis but there are things you can do at home without medical treatment to help.
- taking over the counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol
- not having sex until your symptoms have gone and you feel better
- drinking plenty of water, as this can help flush out the infection
Cystitis tablets are easy to take, and with nitrofurantoin 100mg you only need to take 1 capsule twice a day for 3 days. It’s important to finish your course of nitrofurantoin, even if you feel better. This is to make sure the antibiotic has had a chance to completely clear the infection by killing all the bacteria, so your cystitis does not come back.
You should take nitrofurantoinwith or after food and with a glass of water. If you do not feel better after 3 days, speak to a doctor for advice on what to do next. You may need further tests of your urine or another form of treatment.
Cystitis tablets, such as nitrofurantoin capsules, are an effective way to treat the underlying infection. Your body will pass the antibiotic through your bladder and into your urinary tract. The nitrofurantoin can then directly target the bacteria in the area to get rid of them.
A single 3 day course of nitrofurantoin antibiotic treatment is usually enough to treat cystitis. Sometimes cystitis may come back, in which case you may need further tests or a different type of antibiotic.
If you start to get cystitis more often, this is known as 'recurrent cystitis'. You may need more tests to look into why you are getting cystitis more often, and in some cases you might need to take a daily cystitis tablet to prevent it from happening.
The antibiotic treatment we prescribe is nitrofurantoin. It contains 100mg of nitrofurantoin, which is an antibiotic. It is prescribed twice daily, for 3 days to treat cystitis. This is supplied by us in 6 capsules. It works as your body filters out the antibiotic and it passes through your bladder and into the pee. This is good for cystitis as the medicine will pass through the site of infection, helping to treat it. You should begin to feel better within a few days but you must keep taking your treatment until it is finished, even if you feel better.
This medication can sometimes be used in pregnancy and breastfeeding, but the dosage and length of the course might be different. You should speak to your doctor before using this. Nitrofurantoin may not be suitable with some health conditions. Speak to a doctor before use if you have diabetes, severe kidney disease, or a blood disorder.
Cystitis antibiotic treatment, such as nitrofurantoin, is not available over the counter as it is a prescribed medication.
Our service allows you to get doctor approved and prescribed treatment by filling out a medical questionnaire. The questionnaire is checked by a doctor, to make sure cystitis treatment is the right option for you. If approved, your prescription will then be supplied and you can order treatment online from us. You can get painkillers over the counter, which can help you to manage your symptoms.
There are certain risk factors that may increase your chances of getting cystitis.
- wiping your bottom from back to front after using the toilet
- having sex
- being over the age of 75
- having diabetes
- using a diaphragm (contraception inserted in the vagina before sex)
- having a weak immune system
- having a urinary catheter fitted (a tube to drain the bladder)
Cystitis is not an STI but there is an increased risk of getting cystitis if you have sex. This is because during sex, the bacteria that causes cystitis is more likely to get into the bladder.
Nitrofurantoin is an antibiotic that may cause some side effects.
The most common side effects include:
- nausea (feeling sick)
- loss of appetite
- vomiting (being sick) or diarrhoea
- feeling sleepy
If you get any of these side effects, continue taking the medication and treat them as you would normally. You can take painkillers with nitrofurantoin, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Drink plenty of water and rest. If you continue to get these side effects, speak to your doctor.
There are also some rare side effects of nitrofurantoin, including:
- bad headaches
- an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
- dark pee, pale poo, yellow skin, or yellowing of the eyes
- bleeding and bruising that you cannot explain
- fever or feeling unwell
- tingling, numbness, or weakness
If you get any of the above rare side effects, speak to your doctor right away or get urgent medical help.
Our cystitis treatment may not be suitable for everyone. We do not prescribe nitrofurantoin to pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. Some medications may also interact with nitrofurantoin.
Speak to your doctor if you take:
- other antibiotics, especially ones known as quinolones
- indigestion tablets, especially ones that contain magnesium
- gout treatment
- other cystitis treatments from a pharmacy
Nitrofurantoin may also not be the right treatment for you if you have other health conditions.
- severe kidney disease
- vitamin B deficiency
- porphyria (a rare blood disorder)
- glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency
Nitrofurantoin cannot be used if you have ever had an allergic reaction to it and you should speak to a doctor if you have allergies to any other medications. You can drink alcohol with nitrofurantoin.
Your body may naturally get rid of cystitis, but if it does not, antibiotics are the best treatment. There are certain steps you can take to reduce your chances of cystitis coming back.
- avoiding tight clothing, such as trousers and jeans
- not holding your pee for too long, and emptying your bladder fully
- using unperfumed cleaning products and having showers, rather than baths
- staying well hydrated
- wiping your bottom from front to back
- using the toilet after sex
- wearing underwear made with cotton
Some sources suggest drinking cranberry juice, but there is not enough evidence behind this to suggest whether it works or not. But, staying hydrated can help to clear the infection.
Most of the time, cystitis symptoms will clear up on their own within 48 hours. There are a few things you can do to help your body naturally fight and recover from the infection. You can:
- drink plenty of water to cleanse the urinary tract of the bacteria
- avoid sex until the infection clears
- wipe from front to back after using the toilet, and wash your genital area if you can
- try not to hold in your pee, and go to the toilet as soon as you need to
If your cystitis symptoms do not get better after a few days of following these tips, speak to your doctor. You may need antibiotics to get rid of your cystitis infection.
Cystitis does not usually last long and can go away by itself after a few days. If you still feel pain when you pee and you feel like it is getting worse after 3 or 4 days, you can get treatment within 24 hours through Asda Online Doctor.
If cystitis is left untreated, you may develop a kidney infection as the bacteria travel up your urinary tract and into your kidneys. You may need hospital treatment if your cystitis infection leads to a kidney infection.
Your body relies on your kidneys to filter your blood and get rid of harmful or toxic substances. Treating a kidney infection is much more urgent than cystitis, and this is why you should speak to a doctor if you are not feeling better within a couple of days.
There are a few reasons why you might keep getting cystitis, including:
- you are wiping back to front when using the toilet, so bacteria from your bowels enter your urethra
- having sex, and the transfer of bacteria from yourself or your partner, which can trigger the infection
- holding your pee when you need to go to the toilet, as this causes bacteria to build up
- taking certain medicines that suppress your immune system
- feeling stressed or run down
You may also have the symptoms of cystitis, such as pain or burning when you pee, but without the underlying infection. You will have to see a doctor to check what may be causing this and to get treatment.
Cystitis can clear up on its own, as your body’s immune system will fight bacterial infections but sometimes it needs help. Drinking plenty of water to try and flush out the bacteria can help, as well as resting. If you still have cystitis symptoms after 3 or 4 days, speak to a doctor for advice as you may need antibiotic treatment.
Cystitis is not exactly the same as a UTI (urinary tract infection), but it is a type of UTI. This is because ‘UTI’ is a broad term used to describe a wide range of different infections that can affect the urinary tract. Your urinary tract is made up of your kidneys, bladder and the tubes where urine flows (ureter and urethra).
Dr Kathryn Basford
Dr Kathryn Basford is a qualified GP who works as a GP in London, as well as with ZAVA. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training through Whipps Cross Hospital in London.Meet our doctors
Article created: 31 Aug 2021
Last reviewed: 04 Nov 2021
Cystitis (2018) NHS (Accessed 10 August 2021)
Kidney infection (2021) NHS (Accessed 10 August 2021)
Macrobid Capsules 100mg B.P (2019) EMC (Accessed 10 August 2021)
Nitrofurantoin (2018) NHS (Accessed 10 August 2021)
Urinary tract infection (UTI) (2021) NHS inform (Accessed 10 August 2021)
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(Reviews are for ZAVA UK)