How to Treat Cystitis

Three Parts:Treating Your Symptoms QuicklyPreventing Future ProblemsKnowing When to Seek Medical Attention

Cystitis is an inflammatory condition in your bladder usually caused by a bacterial infection. Both men and women can get cystitis, although women are the primary victims of this condition. If cystitis is not treated, the condition will likely get more painful and irritating. The bacteria can spread and cause a more serious kidney infection. By paying attention to the early symptoms, you can begin treatment and get rid of the infection quickly.

Part 1
Treating Your Symptoms Quickly

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    Identify your symptoms. Common symptoms include the following:
    • A persistent urge to urinate, even when you just emptied your bladder.
    • A painful, burning sensation when you urinate
    • Passing small amounts of urine.
    • Cloudy and strong-smelling urine.
    • Feeling pressure in the lower part of your abdomen and discomfort in your pelvic area
    • A low-grade fever.
    • Small amounts of blood in your urine.[1]
    • Children may have symptoms that include irritability, poor appetite, and trouble controlling the bladder.[2]
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    Talk to your doctor as soon as you develop symptoms. Other names for cystitis are bladder infections, and urinary tract infections. Starting treatment promptly can help you to feel better quickly and prevent any complications, such as a kidney infection.[3]
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    Take an NSAID or acetaminophen for pain. Sometimes, cystitis can cause discomfort in the abdomen or pelvic area or low-grade fever.[4] You can treat these symptoms with an over-the-counter NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). You can also take acetaminophen (Tylenol), which isn't an anti-inflammatory but can help relieve pain and fever.[5][6]
    • Take the lowest possible dose that's effective. Overdosing or prolonged use of OTC painkillers can cause serious complications.
    • If you experience back or side pain, fever and chills, or nausea and vomiting, seek medical help immediately. You may have an infection that requires immediate treatment.[7]
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    Take antibiotics. Your doctor may want to collect a urine sample to verify the presence of bacteria. The most common type of bacteria that causes cystitis is called Escherichia coli, or E. coli.[8]
    • Your doctor will know which antibiotic you need to effectively manage the infection. Take the antibiotic exactly as prescribed, and for the full duration of the prescription. By doing this you can be sure you have completely treated the condition, and will not have a sudden relapse of your symptoms.[9]
    • Talk to your doctor before you proceed with any herbal remedies. Antibiotics are the drugs of choice when an active infection is involved. Your doctor is your best resource if you are considering herbs or herbal remedies to treat your symptoms.
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    Take medications to help with urinary discomfort. Depending on the severity of the cystitis, your doctor may recommend or prescribe drugs called urinary tract analgesics. These medications help minimize the discomfort felt when urinating. The most common agent used is called phenazopyridine. You still need to take antibiotics even if your doctor recommends taking phenazopyridine.[10]
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    Drink plenty of water. Drink as much water as you can each day. This helps to flush out the bacteria that are growing in your urinary tract, including your bladder.[11]
    • The Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink about 13 cups (3 liters) of fluids per day. Women should drink about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of fluids per day. If you have an infection, you may want to drink more.[12]
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    Add cranberry juice to the fluids you drink. Cranberry juice is mildly acidic and helps to lower the amount of bacteria in your bladder.[13]
    • Taking higher doses of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, may be helpful during this time as this also helps to make your urine slightly acidic. Acidic urine makes it harder for the bacteria to live.[14]
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    Avoid drinking fluids that contain sugar or irritants. Beverages that contain caffeine, such as tea and coffee, can be irritating to the lining of your bladder. The bacteria that is causing your bladder infection attaches itself to the lining area of your bladder and causes irritation, which contributes to the pain you experience. Avoiding beverages that can further irritate the lining of your bladder can help to prevent additional pain, and promote healing.[15]
    • Consuming soft drinks, sugary sodas, and fruit juices, add sugar to the fluids that pass through your bladder. Sugar is a nutrient for bacteria to grow. Avoiding these types of beverages during this time can help to promote healing and prevent further bacterial growth.[16]
    • Drinking just water and cranberry juice is the best option while you have symptoms.[17]
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    Avoid sex until the infection has cleared up. Some evidence suggests that sex can make cystitis worse.[18] If you do have sex, use plenty of lubrication to help reduce friction and irritation.[19]

Part 2
Preventing Future Problems

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    Practice good hygiene. Taking showers instead of baths is recommended if you have repeated episodes of cystitis, or bladder and urinary tract infections.[20]
    • After a bowel movement, women should wipe from the front to the back. This helps to prevent bacteria from entering your urethra, and moving into your bladder. Teach children to wipe this way, too.[21]
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    Urinate frequently. Try not to hold your urine for long periods of time. By urinating often, you help to continually flush out your bladder.[22]
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    Urinate before and after sex. By doing so, you can help to prevent the unwanted bacteria that may be transferred during sexual activity from spreading into your urethra and bladder. If possible, use warm water to wash your genital area before having sex.[23]
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    Drink plenty of water. Drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of water each day keeps the fluids moving through your urinary tract. This helps to prevent bacteria from growing and causing an infection.[24]
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    Wear proper undergarments. Wear cotton panties and avoid tight fitting clothing and pantyhose. Allowing your genital area to be exposed to air helps to cut down on sweating and moisture build up that can contribute to the growth of unwanted bacteria.[25]
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    Avoid some feminine products. Many feminine products affect the pH balance of the urinary tract. Some women may also be more sensitive to chemicals, fragrances, etc. used in these products and develop an allergy-like reaction to them. Particularly if you get cystitis frequently, eliminate the use of these products.[26][27]
    • Don’t douche. Douching disrupts the natural balance of "good" bacteria and acidity in the area.[28]
    • Avoid feminine hygiene deodorants or sprays in your genital area.
    • Avoid bubble bath or scented granules.
    • Change tampons or pads frequently during your periods.
    • Use a water-based lubricant for sexual activity if you experience vaginal dryness.
    • Avoid lubricants that are silicone or petroleum based.
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    Keep antibiotics on hand if you have recurrent infections. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to have on hand if you know sexual activity is a trigger for your infections. A single dose following sexual intercourse has been shown to help prevent this type of infection.[29]
    • Your doctor may also prescribe a single dose to be taken every day in a routine manner. Another option your doctor may consider is to provide a 3 day course of a prescription antibiotic for you to begin as soon as you notice the first symptoms. Follow the directions provided by your doctor. This will include directions on how to take the medication, and when to contact him or her if you develop symptoms.[30]
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    Consider taking probiotics. Taking probiotics can help to restore a normal and healthy bacterial balance to your body. Some recent evidence suggests probiotics may be beneficial to people that suffer from chronic urinary tract problems.[31]
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    Treat constipation. Constipation can contribute to bladder infections, especially in children. This is because retaining stool in the colon, which happens with constipation, can put pressure on the bladder and interfere with its normal functioning.[32]
    • Increasing your fiber intake, especially of whole grains and vegetables, will help speed the passage of waste through your system.[33]
    • Drinking plenty of water will help you keep hydrated and will also make it easier to pass stools.
    • Regular exercise can also improve colon function.

Part 3
Knowing When to Seek Medical Attention

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    See a doctor immediately if you develop certain symptoms. Some symptoms may be warning signs of a kidney infection, and include back pain, side pain, fever, chills, and nausea and vomiting.[34]
    • Call a doctor immediately if you experience severe vomiting, diarrhea, a rash, or any signs of an allergic reaction to the antibiotic or other medications taken.
    • Call 911 if you see swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat, or have any trouble breathing.
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    Contact your pediatrician right away. If you think your child has a UTI, contact her pediatrician right away. These infections can be much more serious in young children than in adults.[35]
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    Call your doctor if your symptoms come back or don't go away. Once you have finished the course of antibiotics, and your symptoms come back, let your doctor know as soon as possible. This can mean that the infection was not completely cleared, that the infection has started to spread, or that you may need a course of a different antibiotic.[36]
    • You should also call your doctor if you have any problems taking your antibiotic.
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    Pay attention to any change in symptoms. If you start having frequent and painful urination that lasts for several hours, additional pain or discomfort, or a sudden worsening of any of your bladder symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as you can.[37]
    • If you have a vaginal discharge or sores in the genital area, contact your doctor. Sometimes, yeast infections and STIs can be confused with cystitis, and you may need further treatment.
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    Watch for blood in your urine. Blood in your urine can mean that the infection has spread to your kidneys, or that you may have a kidney stone. Your doctor needs to know about blood in your urine as soon as possible.[38]
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    Contact your doctor if you had cystitis in the past. If this is not your first case of cystitis, bladder infection, or urinary tract infection, your doctor will take that into consideration as treatment is started. In some cases, antibiotics can be prescribed for you to have available if you are more susceptible to this type of infection.[39]
    • In addition, your doctor may want to determine possible triggers for you that are causing repeated infections. Your doctor can help by providing information on ways to avoid your triggers, and stop infections as soon as they begin, including the use of prescription antibiotics.[40]
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    Tell your doctor about your symptoms if you are male. While it is possible for a male to get a bladder infection, or cystitis, sometimes the infection can be a warning sign of something more serious. Be sure your doctor knows about your cystitis.[41]


  • Some people get relief from a heating pad placed on low and applied to their abdominal area.
  • Finish your entire course or prescription of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better before they are all gone.
  • If you are pregnant, diabetic, or have any serious medical condition, your doctor needs to know immediately if you develop signs and symptoms of cystitis.
  • If you are post-menopausal, your doctor may consider different antibiotics, or run additional tests if you develop symptoms of a urinary tract infection.

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Categories: Urinary Health