Is this UTI or interstitial cystitis?

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?

6 thoughts on “Is this UTI or interstitial cystitis?”

  1. I was given antibiotics for a UTI but I’ve finished the course and I still have the urgency to pee regularly. This is my first uti and I came up that I had “white cells” in my urine. Please tell me I don’t have IC.

    1. Anastasia Visotsky

      Hi dear Katie, unfortunately, this is not something I can tell you one way or another. You’d have to go to a doctor and go through the standard motions to get diagnosed. With that being said, it is quite normal for folk to feel not completely well right after finishing a course of antibiotics, I linked the post where you can read about it more. Best wishes,

  2. Hi. I have tested positive for a UTI. I am on my second round of antibiotics. Macrobid made me very sick so I needed to stop taking them.
    I have no symptoms but the urgency to pee is constant. I am on going on my third day of medication – should this urgency stop now or will it take the course of the meds?
    I am also taking D-Mannose as well.
    Thanks for your help

    1. Hi Ashley, make sure to talk to your doctor about stopping Macrobid. He/she would probably want to switch you to something else right away.
      The main question is: did you see a reduction in any other symptoms? When do you say you “tested positively for UTI” which test are you referring to?

    1. Hi Tanya,
      Unfortunately D-mannose won’t help with IC. It has only shown some promise with preventing UTIs that are caused by E. coli bacteria.

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