A woman with her hands in front of her crotch who may have cystitis symptoms

Cystitis Treatment

Request antibiotic treatments for bladder infections or TestCards that can check if you have cystitis.

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    Request treatment easily without any face-to-face appointments

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    Treatment that can clear infections in just 3 days

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    In-store collection within 2 to 3 hours

Available from £12.99
About this service

Cystitis is a common infection of the bladder that can be painful or irritating, and in some cases can become more serious if the infection spreads to the kidneys. We offer nitrofurantoin (formerly sold as MacroBid) to treat cystitis. This antibiotic is highly effective in treating bladder infections, and symptoms usually improve within 24 hours.

If you are ordering a TestCard to find out if you're likely to have cystitis, please check you have a compatible mobile device. If you do not have a compatible device, you will not be able to use your TestCard.

Dr Louisa Draper

Medically reviewed by

Dr Louisa Draper

Last reviewed: 19 Sep 2021

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How it Works

About Cystitis Treatment

What is cystitis?

Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, which is usually caused by a bacterial infection. It is the most common urinary tract infection (UTI) and is more common in women. Most cases are mild and often get better within a few days. Some people get cystitis on a regular basis and may need long term treatment or prevention.

What is interstitial cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis is a poorly understood condition, with bladder inflammation that causes pain, pain in the pelvis, and pressure in the bladder. The pain can be mild to severe. It can also make you want to pee more often, and in smaller amounts.

What causes cystitis?

The main cause of cystitis is when the bacteria that lives in your bowel and on your skin, gets into the bladder. It gets in through the tube that is responsible for removing the pee (pee) from the body, known as the urethra.

The main cause of cystitis is when certain bacteria, which usually live in your bowels or on your skin, get into your bladder and cause an infection. These bacteria infect the bladder by travelling up the urethra. Cystitis is a lot more common in women because the urethra is shorter, so the bacteria has a shorter distance to travel to cause a bladder infection.

Some of the other things that can increase your risk of cystitis include:

  • wiping your bottom from the back to the front when you go to the toilet
  • having sex
  • pregnancy
  • using a diaphragm as contraception
  • having a tube inserted in your urethra to drain the bladder (a catheter)
  • if you are younger than 1 or older than 75
  • diabetes
  • a weak immune system
  • lowered oestrogen levels due to menopause

Why do I keep getting cystitis?

Some people get cystitis often, which is known as recurrent cystitis. This when you get more than one infection in a 6 month period.

The most common reasons for getting cystitis on a regular basis, include:

  • not recovering properly from cystitis in the past
  • not emptying your bladder properly
  • having sex too soon after having cystitis
  • your immune function not working properly
  • using some certain soaps, deodorants, wipes, talc, and bubble baths

Is cystitis sexually transmitted?

Cystitis is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but having sex does increase the risk of a bladder infection in women.

Can men get cystitis?

Yes, men can get cystitis. However, cystitis is a lot more common in women as it is easier for bacteria to reach their bladder.

The symptoms of cystitis in men is similar to women, and includes:

  • needing to pee urgently and often
  • a burning sensation when you pee
  • bad smelling pee
  • blood in your pee
  • problems going to the toilet

What are the symptoms of cystitis?

Common symptoms of cystitis include:

  • needing to pee often
  • needing to pee urgently
  • stinging, pain and burning when you pee
  • a strong smell or dark and cloudy colour to your pee
  • pain in the lower part of your tummy
  • feeling ill
  • blood in your pee

Why does cystitis cause confusion?

Cystitis can cause confusion in seniors. This is because our immune systems change as we age, making it respond differently to infection. Many seniors will suffer from confusion, withdrawal, loss of bladder control, and anxiety (rather than pain).

How do I know if I have a UTI?

If you are unsure on whether you have cystitis, you can use a UTI test. The UTI test card is very easy to use at home. It works the same as other test strips, except this uses an app on your phone to give you a diagnosis.

This helps you find out quickly if you have cystitis or not. Collect your pee in a clean container and do not allow it to come into contact with any dirty surface. Dip the test card UTI strip into the sample and scan the QR code on the UTI strip. You will receive results quickly on your phone, telling you if you need treatment. If you have cystitis, the doctors can recommend the right treatment with expert advice.

Can cystitis go away on its own?

Antibiotics are the most effective way to get rid of cystitis, but UTIs can sometimes clear up on their own without treatment.

How long does a UTI last?

Cystitis symptoms usually go away within 48 hours after your treatment begins. If the infection spreads to your kidneys then it will take longer for your symptoms to go away, usually more than a week. In this case you need to speak to a doctor if your symptoms are not gone within 48 hours, as it may be a sign that you need a different treatment.

How long does it take for a UTI to go away without antibiotics?

Some cases of cystitis can go away on their own without antibiotics, usually within a week. But if you do not get treatment and your cystitis does not clear up, then you may find your infection gets worse and it will take you longer to recover.

How is cystitis treated?

Depending on your health and your symptoms, you may be advised to use self-care measures like drinking plenty of water. If the doctor thinks you need treatment, antibiotics are usually the first course of treatment, because they are effective at killing the bacteria that causes the infection.

You will need to take antibiotics for at least 3 days. This might be a bit longer if you have a severe infection or for certain groups of people, like if you are pregnant. Always finish the full course of antibiotics to make sure that your infection goes away completely.

What antibiotics treat cystitis?

Nitrofurantoin is the recommended first treatment of choice. Trimethoprim used to be one of the most common antibiotics prescribed for cystitis, but has become less effective at treating cystitis due to antibiotic resistance. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence has determined trimethoprim is no longer the best treatment for cystitis.

Nitrofurantoin works by killing the bacteria that causes cystitis. It can be ordered online from the Superdrug Online Doctor. If you are unsure if you have cystitis try our UTI TestCard, a simple at home test that gives you a fast and accurate answer.

Can you provide fosfomycin to treat cystitis?

Nitrofurantoin is the first line cystitis treatment we provide. This is based on national guidelines to prevent developing bacterial resistance to fosfomycin. We can provide fosfomycin to patients, but this is only if they can not take nitrofurantoin for any clinical reason.

Can you cure cystitis in one day?

Antibiotics are the fastest and most effective way to treat cystitis in women. You will find relief from burning and pain within 1 to 3 days. It takes a bit of time for it to go away completely, as the antibiotics do not work instantly. To help speed up this process you should drink plenty of water, pass urine as often as you need to, and avoid drinking coffee, alcohol, citrus juices and sugary drinks.

What’s the best treatment for cystitis?

The best antibiotic treatment for cystitis is nitrofurantoin. Clinical studies have shown that nitrofurantoin is up to 92% effective in treating cystitis, and only 3% of samples of the bacteria that cause cystitis showed resistance to this treatment.

Trimethoprim was another antibiotic that was offered for cystitis, but is no longer the recommended treatment as the bacteria which causes cystitis has developed resistance to the drug. In a clinical trial it was found that 34% of samples of the bacteria that causes cystitis was resistant to this treatment, which is why nitrofurantoin is more commonly prescribed.

Can treatment stop cystitis infections permanently?

There is no treatment that will stop cystitis for good, but you can take preventative measures which will reduce the risk of the bladder infection coming back.

These measures include:

  • avoiding perfumed bubble bath, soap, or talcum powder around your genitals
  • having a shower rather than a bath
  • emptying your bladder fully when you go for a pee, and as soon as you can after sex
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • wiping your bottom from front to back
  • wearing underwear made from cotton
  • avoiding tight jeans and trousers

How is cystitis treated in men?

Because cystitis is uncommon in men, it can be more serious or indicate another problem, so must be treated with antibiotics straight away. You must visit your doctor to get an assessment and antibiotics. Make sure you drink plenty of water and do not have sex until all your symptoms have gone away. Take ibuprofen or paracetamol for pain.

We do not offer treatment for cystitis for men, as they cannot be treated online but must have an assessment with a doctor in person, and a urine (pee) sample. If you think you may have a bladder infection and you are male, you must visit your doctor for treatment.

How does cystitis treatment work?

Nitrofurantoin, which is the antibiotic recommended to treat cystitis, works by stopping the cells of the bacteria from forming properly, killing them off.

How to take cystitis treatment

Swallow the tablets whole with water and make sure to take them with food. If you are taking antacids (like heartburn tablets) tell your doctor, as some can stop them from being absorbed in your body.

Make sure you finish your entire course of treatment, even if you do not have any symptoms. If you stop taking your treatment early then the bacteria may continue to grow, which means the infection will come back quickly.

How effective is cystitis treatment?

The common antibiotics used to treat cystitis, like nitrofurantoin, can take 1 to 3 days to relieve the symptoms. Clinical studies have shown that nitrofurantoin is effective at clearing up cystitis in up to 92% of cases.

How long does it take for cystitis to go away after treatment?

Antibiotic treatment, such as nitrofurantoin, will clear up cystitis within 3 days. If it takes longer than this for your cystitis to go away, then you should speak to a doctor for further treatment, as it may mean the infection is more severe. Antibiotic treatment also does not prevent cystitis from happening in the future.

How long do cystitis symptoms last after treatment?

Antibiotics will help reduce the symptoms within 1 or 2 days. If you have bad cystitis with a temperature and back pain, this indicates a severe infection that may be affecting your kidneys. You must talk to your doctor and they can advise the best treatment. You may have to take the treatment for up to 14 days.

When can I have sex again after taking cystitis treatment?

You should not really have sex until all of the symptoms have cleared up, which could take a different amount of time for everyone. Having sex while you still have symptoms can just irritate the infection and make it worse.

Over the counter cystitis treatment

There are some over the counter cystitis treatments you can try. Remember that if your symptoms carry on for more than 3 days, you should speak to a doctor to see if you need antibiotics.

Cystitis sachets

Cystitis sachets can be purchased over the counter and contain sodium citrate or potassium citrate, which help relieve cystitis symptoms. The sachets reduce how much acid you have in your pee, which stops the burning. The cystitis sachets do not kill any bacteria or fight infection, all they do is hide the symptoms, making them easier to manage. They can be bought at most pharmacies without a prescription.


One of the common cystitis treatments is drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements, which helps get rid of your symptoms. There is thought to be an ingredient in cranberries which can prevent the bacteria attaching to the wall of your bladder. The evidence for this is mixed.

Cystitis painkillers

Pain and burning are the most common symptoms of cystitis. You can take over the counter medicines, such as aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with pain caused by cystitis.

Can I get cystitis antibiotics over the counter?

Antibiotic treatment for cystitis is only available on prescription, so you cannot get it over the counter from a pharmacy without a prescription. You can get a prescription online with Superdrug Online Doctor.

What are the side effects of cystitis treatment?

Cystitis treatment, as with any antibiotic, can cause side effects. The side effects you may suffer from include:

  • feeling sick
  • vomiting
  • dark pee
  • itching and discharge from your vagina
  • headaches

When taking cystitis treatment you should speak to your doctor if you:

  • get chest pain
  • begin coughing
  • struggle to breathe
  • have water or blood in your poo
  • are tingling or feeling numb in your hands or feet
  • start to bruise easily

What should I do if I get side effects?

Any mild side effects should go away once you finish the full course of antibiotics. Seek emergency medical treatment if you show signs of an allergic reaction to the medicine, which can include problems breathing, swelling of your face or throat, and rashes. If you get a sore throat, burning eyes, temperature or a rash, speak to your doctor right away.

How else can I get rid of cystitis?

While antibiotics are the fastest and most effective way to clear up cystitis, there are other methods you can try to help reduce your symptoms. These include drinking more water, trying some remedies, or using over the counter treatments.

How to get rid of cystitis without antibiotics

The fastest way to get rid of cystitis is with antibiotics. There are some home remedies you can try while you wait for your antibiotics to start taking effect.

You can try the following, which may help:

  • drink plenty of fluids
  • use the bathroom when you need to
  • put a hot water bottle on your lower tummy for pain
  • wear loose fitting clothing
  • eat a healthy diet
  • avoid coffee and alcohol
  • drink cranberry juice or take cranberry supplements
  • take over the counter painkillers

What happens if antibiotics do not work for UTI?

Most of the time, in women who are not pregnant, cystitis is not serious and symptoms usually improve within 1 to 3 days of taking antibiotics. Not all cystitis will clear up with antibiotics, causing the bacteria to continue growing. Speak to your doctor if the antibiotics are not giving you relief.

How to relieve cystitis

There are some things you can do to relieve the symptoms of cystitis, like:

  • drinking plenty of water
  • not having sex
  • taking over the counter painkillers
  • going to the bathroom when you need to

How to prevent a UTI

To prevent a UTI you can:

  • shower rather than having a bath
  • do not use perfume in soap or bubble bath 
  • do not use powder around your genitals
  • go to the toilet when needed
  • always wipe yourself from front to back when you go to the toilet
  • go to the toilet right after having sex
  • wear cotton panties
  • keep well hydrated and avoid coffee and alcohol


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