What’s the Difference between a UTI and Interstitial Cystitis?

dreamstime_s_38700590Most women are aware of what a UTI is, even if they’ve never experienced one. However, are you familiar with interstitial cystitis? If not, you’re not alone – interstitial cystitis is often confused with and misdiagnosed as a UTI because of their close similarities. However, there are major differences between the two conditions.

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urinary system – the bladder, kidney, or urethra. UTIs are far more common in women than in men, and are most frequently treated with antibiotics. UTI symptoms include pelvic pain, painful intercourse, and changes to urine, including a darker color, odor, frequency, or blood. Severe UTIs may exhibit cramping, fatigue and fever. UTIs are typically self-diagnosed, meaning that you will notice these symptoms or changes and visit your provider to seek treatment.

What is interstitial cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is not an infection like a UTI. It is a chronic pain condition that is often referred to as Painful Bladder Syndrome. IC affects women more frequently than men. Symptoms of interstitial cystitis include pelvic pain and a persistent urge to urinate, particularly in the evening. Painful intercourse is also a noted symptom. Because these symptoms are so similar to a UTI, IC can be misdiagnosed and treated unsuccessfully with antibiotics. In actuality, you should seek the care of an experienced urogynecologist who will use medications, lifestyle changes, physical therapy and/or biofeedback in order to relieve IC symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Can I prevent a UTI or interstitial cystitis?

A UTI is an infection, so there are steps that can be taken to help prevent one from occurring. Steps to prevent a UTI include staying hydrated, urinating when you feel the need to, and urinating after sexual intercourse. Incorporating cranberry juice into a healthy diet is also recommended.

Since interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition with no known cause, it is difficult to actively prevent. Even though the condition does negatively impact quality of life among patients, there are treatment options available that can provide relief. If you believe your symptoms match either a UTI or interstitial cystitis, please contact UGCSF today.