Diagnosing cystitis 

If you are a woman who has had cystitis before, you may be able to recognise the symptoms and diagnose the condition without seeing your GP.

However, men and children with cystitis symptoms should always see their GP. 

If you're a woman, you should see your GP if: 

  • you have cystitis symptoms for the first time 
  • there's blood in your urine (haematuria)
  • you have a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF)
  • you're in a lot of pain
  • you've had cystitis three times in one year
  • you're pregnant
  • you have a catheter (a tube inserted into the urethra to allow urine to flow into a drainage bag, which is often used after surgery)

Your GP should be able to diagnose cystitis from asking about your symptoms. In some cases, they may also use a dipstick (a chemically treated strip of paper) to test a sample of your urine. The paper will react to certain bacteria by changing colour, showing which kind of infection you have.

Urine sample

Your GP may wish to send a sample of your urine to a laboratory for further testing. This sample is called a urine culture. This may be necessary if:

  • you have recurrent cystitis (more than three times in one year)
  • it is possible you have a kidney infection – cystitis can be a symptom of this
  • you are on immunosuppressant medication – this type of medication affects your immune system (the body's defences), so you may be more prone to infection
  • you have diabetes – cystitis can be a complication of diabetes
  • you may have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) – such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia
  • it is possible you have another infection, such as thrush (candida)

The urine culture will confirm which bacteria are causing your cystitis. Alternatively, it may reveal that your cystitis is caused by another condition. Your GP can advise you about the most appropriate treatment for you. 

Further tests

If you have recurrent cystitis that doesn't respond to antibiotics, even after a urine culture has been tested, you may be referred to a specialist. You may need more tests, such as:

A cystoscopy is when a tiny fibreoptic camera called a cystoscope is used to examine your bladder. The cystoscope is a very thin tube that has a light and a camera at one end. It is inserted into your urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body) and transmits images of the inside of your bladder to a screen.

Page last reviewed: 07/11/2013

Next review due: 07/11/2015