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 Is it a UTI or IC? How to Tell the Difference.

Any woman who has ever experienced the discomfort of a urinary tract infection understands the burning and urinary urgency that often accompanies this common infection. But, sometimes, the symptoms of a UTI are similar to symptoms of interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome. Here’s how to tell the difference between the two.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract, most commonly affecting the bladder and the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body). A UTI results from bacteria traveling to the bladder from the urethra.

Symptoms of a UTI include:

  • The need to urinate urgently and frequently but little urine may come out
  • Burning during urination
  • Lower abdominal pain, bloating and/or pressure in the lower pelvic area
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy urine or urine that has a foul smell

What is Interstitial Cystitis (IC)?

Interstitial cystitis (IC), or painful bladder syndrome, is the chronic inflammation of the bladder lining that causes pain and pressure in the pelvic area. Unlike a common UTI, IC can be difficult to diagnose. Sometimes, a urine culture comes back negative, showing no bacterial infection, despite a woman’s symptoms. Some women with IC also can experience pain during sexual intercourse, which typically is not the case with a UTI.

Symptoms of IC can be similar to the symptoms of a UTI:

  • Pain in the bladder and in the pelvic area
  • Painful urination
  • Urgent and frequent need to urinate, even if the bladder is not full

Diagnosis and Treatment

A UTI can usually be resolved with a course of antibiotics. Over-the-counter pain medication can alleviate some of the pain symptoms. Your doctor may also encourage greater intake of fluids to help flush out the bladder.

Diagnosing IC is often more difficult because the causes of the syndrome are often elusive. It’s not uncommon for women with interstitial cystitis to also have health conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, and pelvic floor dysfunction. To help diagnose IC, your doctor may test for other health conditions to rule out other causes of the painful bladder symptoms.

Treating IC

Treatment for IC is focused around symptom relief as there is no known “cure” for this condition. Several therapies have been shown to alleviate and/or diminish symptoms of IC including:

  • Pelvic floor physical therapy
  • Dietary changes such as avoiding foods that irritate the bladder
  • Bladder instillations or bladder distention
  • Medications

Learn more about treatment options for interstitial cystitis here. Whether it is a UTI or IC, it’s important to seek medical attention to care for your bladder symptoms.  Find a Urologist or call 888-401-7149 to make an appointment with a doctor near you.

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