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Is this UTI or interstitial cystitis?

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If you look at any message board related to a UTI treatment discussion you most likely going to come across patients complaining about bladder discomfort AFTER they have completed a course of antibiotics and no longer have detectable bacteria in their urine, some patients claim to have developed interstitial cystitis after repeated urinary tract infections.

Other names for IC are painful bladder syndrome (PBS), bladder pain syndrome (BPS), and chronic pelvic pain.

There is a hypothesis that UTI may trigger interstitial cystitis, but this has not been well researched. The connection between repeated UTIs and IC could be explained, for example by damage to the bladder lining that chronic infections can cause, but these are just speculations. Physicians do not know causes for interstitial cystitis, nor there is a proven treatment that works.

“I had a UTI and after treatment for it, I still felt a throbbing discomfort in my general bladder area for weeks. I saw a urologist soon after my UTI and he said I might feel discomfort for a couple of weeks afterward. I also went to my GYN and they tested me for STDs and yeast infections but I came up negative. … I still feel sensitivity in my bladder area— a subtle throbbing discomfort and it been almost 8 weeks…”

Since interstitial cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder with discomfort or pain in the bladder area, the symptoms of IC could be often mistaken for UTI symptoms.

Get familiar with these IC symptoms:

  • Discomfort is worse than the bladder is filling and relieved when it’s empty
  • Pelvic pain
  • Feeling of pressure in the bladder
  • Needing to go often (more than 10 times a day and sometimes at night)
  • Urgency (feeling a strong need to go)
  • For women, pain in the vulva, vagina or the area behind the vagina
  • For men, pain in the scrotum, testicles, penis or the area behind the scrotum
  • For women, pain during sex
  • For men, pain during orgasm or after sex

The most important distinction between UTI and IC is obviously the presence of bacteria that cause infections in your bladder. Even if you suspect you might have IC, first get tested for a UTI to eliminate this option.

Have you experienced these symptoms? Do you suspect you might have IC after suffering from chronic urinary tract infections?

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