Diagnosing interstitial cystitis (IC) can be challenging. The IC diagnosis process requires healthcare providers to rule out other conditions prior to making the clinical judgment that you have IC. Common conditions that must be first ruled out include urinary tract infections and chronic prostatitis. In addition, the lack of a diagnostic test for IC may lead to a misdiagnosis such as:
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
IC is often mistaken for a urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder infection, which it is not. Some IC patients do have low levels of bacteria in their urine that don’t normally qualify as a urinary tract infection and others may have atypical bacteria, such as ureaplasm. Also, IC patients do get full-blown UTIs—and antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat these urinary infections.
Gotta go? The diagnosis of IC and overactive bladder (OAB) are easy to confuse. Similar to IC, overactive bladder is a condition that results in the sudden need to urinate (urgency). OAB is caused by a sudden involuntary contraction of the detrusor, a muscle in your bladder wall which is controlled by the nervous system. Also called urge incontinence, OAB is a problem with the nerves and muscles in the bladder. OAB patients typically do not also experience the frequency (need to go often) or the pain of IC.
IC and chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS) are conditions in men that are similar. IC in men may be mistaken for chronic prostatitis. If a man with CP/CPPS also has chronic lower urinary tract symptoms, such as urgency, frequency, nocturia, pain with bladder filling, suprapubic pressure, or painful urination, and does not respond to standard therapies for prostatitis, he may have IC.
You might confuse hemorrhagic cystitis with IC because the symptoms are similar. Hemorrhagic cystitis also presents with bladder pain and irritation, frequency, urgency, and nocturia. It can also damage the bladder wall and cause your bladder to shrink. However, patients with hemorrhagic cystitis often have additional symptoms such as blood in their urine, systemic infections, and urinary obstruction. Hemorrhagic cystitis is usually caused by cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or pelvic radiation treatments and typically goes away once the chemotherapy or radiation treatment causing the condition is stopped.
Controversy swirls around the idea that pudendal nerve problems might be mistaken for IC—or maybe cause it—and that surgery to fix it may be the best option. We talk to patients who’ve had surgery and the professionals on both sides of the issue to help you sort it out. Read more in the Spring 2011 issue of the ICA Update.
Many people with IC struggle with other conditions, including autoimmune, pelvic problems and chronic pain conditions. Researchers are studying this phenomenon. Much of the research about the causes of IC is striving to sort out the overlap of IC with other chronic conditions such as allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, and sensitive skin are three common overlapping conditions in the IC population. And, there are many other related conditions that affect people with IC.
- Individuals with allergies, migraine headaches, endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, or sensitive skin may have a greater chance of developing IC. And, some studies have reported that IC patients are as much as 100 times more likely than the general population to have irritable bowel syndrome.
- Vulvodynia, a syndrome marked by various painful vulvovaginal symptoms, is the fourth most common IC related condition. It is thought that a common defect in the bladder and vaginal tissues may contribute to both conditions.
- Individuals already suffering from IC may also have a greater chance of having fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
- IC patients have been shown to be 30 times more likely than the general population to have systemic lupus erythematosus.
- More recent research has revealed that IC may also be connected with other chronic conditions, such as panic attacks and pelvic floor dysfunction.
Learn More About IC
- Order resources from the ICA store
- Subscribe to the ICHelp YouTube Channel
- Follow ICHelp on Twitter
- Get an overview of IC from Dr. Robert Moldwin, director of the Pelvic Pain Center at the Arthur Smith Institute for Urology in New Hyde Park, NY
- Ask the ICA your questions about IC
- Check out the Interstitial Cystitis Reading Lists
Revised Wednesday, March 25th, 2015