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Cystitis is a type of urinary tract infection in which there is inflammation of the bladder usually due to a bacterial infection. It is a common occurrence in women causing discomfort and pain, and in most cases will pass within a few days without cause for concern.

Cystitis in males on the other hand is not a common finding, and usually requires further investigations to determine the cause. The treatment we offer for cystitis on Ask A Pharmacist should not be used by men, and they should seek prompt medical assistance from their GP.


The main symptoms of cystitis include:

  • Dysuria – pain, burning or stinging when you pass urine
  • Urinary frequency – have to pass urine more often than normal, including at night when sleeping
  • Urinary urgency – getting a sudden urge to urinate and the feeling you cant hold
  • Lower abdominal discomfort
  • Nocturia – having to wake up at night to pass urine
  • Cloudy or dark urine which has a strong smell


Cystitis is thought to occur when bacteria usually found in the bowels or live harmlessly on the skin find there was into the bladder through the urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside of your body). Certain factors can increase the chances of this happening such as:

  • Having sexual intercourse
  • Wiping your bottom after defecating back to front
  • Having diabetes
  • Being pregnant
  • Using a diaphragm for contraception
  • Having a urinary catheter
  • Wearing tight fitting underwear or trousers


Mild symptoms of cystitis are usually self limiting and go away on their own. You can do the following to help with symptoms and prevent infection in the future:

  • Drink 2L of water
  • Take pain relief if needed such as ibuprofen & paracetamol
  • Avoid sexual intercourse whilst having cystitis
  • Urinate frequently and avoid holding your urine
  • Wiping from front to back after defecating
  • Washing your genital area after visiting the toilet
  • Emptying your bladder as soon as possible after sexual intercourse
  • Wearing lose fitted clothing

Increasing intake of cranberry in the form of juices, sachets or tablets has been traditionally recommended to help deal with the symptoms of cystitis. Whilst some women find relief using these methods, there is no solid evidence to suggest they provide much benefit.


We can supply antibiotics to help speed up recovery from cystitis, particularly in those women who find the symptoms painful and debilitating. For milder symptoms, we recommend to allow 3 days using the advice above. We only advise getting antibiotics through this service if you have had cystitis before and are confident of recognising its symptoms. If you suffer from recurrent cystitis ( 3 or more episodes in 12 months/2 or more episodes in 6 months) then it is important to see your GP to rule out any underlying causes and possibly starting prophylactic (preventative) antibiotic therapy. Taking antibiotics often and unnecessarily can lead to resistant bacteria in your body, that no longer respond to antibiotics. This can cause complications later on if you require these antibiotics for emergency situations.

There are 2 antibiotics we supply via this service, Trimethoprim and Nitrofurantoin. Whilst both are effective options to treat cystitis, Trimethoprim is no longer recommended as first line due to increasing resistance and treatment failure. We therefore recommend to start with Nitrofurantoin (if not allergic or have any conditions for which it is not recommended to take with) especially if you have used Trimethoprim recently. Both antibiotics are taken twice a day (12 hourly) for 3 days after which your symptoms should have resolved. If your symptoms persist after 3 days, you should arrange to see your GP who may wish to send off your urine for testing.

Please ensure to read carefully the patient information leaflet of any medication prior to ordering. This can be found at the bottom of the medical information of the particular treatment.

You will be required to go through a safety questionnaire prior to ordering to ensure the treatment is safe for you.


If you experience any of the following symptoms (even if you have started treatment) you should seek medical assistance straight away. These symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Shaking
  • Back pain

These symptoms may indicate that infection has spread to your kidneys (a condition called pyelonephritis) which requires urgent medical attention and sometimes hospital treatment.