Bladder issues can quickly get a woman’s attention. The uncomfortable sensation of burning urination or the constant urge to go can leave most women convinced they have a UTI, or urinary tract infection. According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in five women will have at least one UTI in her lifetime. However, while UTI’s are common and certainly need treatment, they are not the only reason for your disruptive bladder symptoms. In fact, the symptoms of a UTI can mimic the symptoms women experience when they have interstitial cystitis (IC) or painful bladder syndrome. The next time your bladder acts up, how do you know if it is a UTI or IC?
What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
When bacteria get into the urethra and travels to the bladder, the lining of the bladder becomes red and inflamed and a urinary tract infection develops. Typically, a course of antibiotics and increased intake of water can resolve a urinary tract infection rather quickly. UTI’s in woman are known for the following symptoms:
- Urinary urgency
- Frequent urination with only a few drops of urine
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Abdominal pain, pelvic pressure, bloating and/or lower back pain.
- Blood in the urine
- Cloudy urine with strong odor
- Fever and/or chills
What is Interstitial Cystitis (IC)?
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is commonly referred to as painful bladder syndrome. While the symptoms can resemble a UTI, this is a different but common pelvic health condition that affects up to 8 million young and middle-aged women in the country. IC is not an infection but a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder lining. IC causes pain and pressure in the pelvic area and around the bladder. IC is more difficult to diagnose and treat compared to a UTI. There is no cure for painful bladder syndrome but there are treatment options that can provide symptom relief, such as physical therapy, dietary modifications, bladder instillations, bladder distention and medications.
Symptoms of IC include:
- Pain in the bladder and in the pelvic region surrounding the bladder
- Painful urination without the presence of bacteria or infection
- Urgent and frequent need to urinate, even when the bladder is not full
- Pain during intercourse
Knowing the Difference Between a UTI and IC
If you have any type of sudden change in your bladder habits or disruptive bladder symptoms, please see your gynecologist promptly. If an infection is present, it needs to be treated in a timely manner. More tests may be needed if you are experiencing frequent UTI’s. If infection is not detected, your doctor can determine if IC is likely. While IC is challenging to diagnose, many IC patients also have other health conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis and pelvic floor dysfunction.
At North Pointe OB/GYN, we understand the importance of a comfortable and healthy bladder. Bladder issues can quickly sabotage your quality of life, and they should never be ignored. For more questions about interstitial cystitis and urinary tract infection, please call our Cumming office today.