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Women’s health centre

Cystitis in women - What treatments work for frequent cystitis?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Cystitis often goes away on its own in about three days.

But it's important to see a doctor straight away if you are pregnant or have signs of an infection in your kidneys, such as a high temperature and a lot of pain. You might need to take antibiotics for a little while.

If you've had cystitis more than twice in the past year, you may need treatment to prevent further infections. Here, we look at treatment for frequent infections. Doctors call these infections recurrent cystitis.

Key points for treating cystitis

  • You can take a low dose of antibiotics every day for two months to 12 months to prevent more infections.

  • If you tend to get cystitis a day or so after having sex, taking antibiotics within two hours of having sex can help prevent infection.

  • Having antibiotics to take as soon as your symptoms start might help clear your infection fast. But we need more research to know this for certain.

  • If you've been through the menopause, oestrogen creams, or other oestrogen treatments you put in your vagina, might help to prevent cystitis. But we don't know for certain.

  • Drinking cranberry juice or taking capsules of cranberry juice extract might reduce the chances of getting cystitis, but we need more research, as studies have had conflicting results.

  • Some women find that potassium citrate or sodium citrate reduce the burning feeling you can get with cystitis. But they don't get rid of the infection.

How is cystitis treated?

Antibiotics

Your doctor may prescribe a three-day course of antibiotics to treat your cystitis. The antibiotics you're most likely to take (and their brand names) include: trimethoprim (Trimopan), nitrofurantoin (Furadantin, Macrobid, Macrodantin), cefalexin (Ceporex, Keflex), and amoxicillin.

Which antibiotic your doctor prescribes will depend in part on whether bacteria where you live have become resistant to certain antibiotics. It will also depend on whether you're allergic to certain antibiotics. If you are pregnant, your doctor may prescribe different antibiotics, such as a cephalosporin or penicillin.

Potassium citrate or sodium citrate

These drugs make your urine less acidic. This can reduce the burning feeling that you get when you pass urine. But they won't kill the bacteria causing your infection. You can buy solutions or flavoured packets at a pharmacy. Or you can make up a solution at home using sodium bicarbonate. Women with cystitis who are taking the antibiotic nitrofurantoin should not take potassium or sodium citrate or anything else to make their urine less acidic. Nitrofurantoin is much more effective when the urine is acidic.[10]

Painkillers

You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce your pain and lower your temperature.

Drinking lots of fluid

Many people think drinking lots of fluid helps because it flushes out the bladder. But there's no research that shows drinking lots can help to clear cystitis.

Last Updated: March 13, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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