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Oh My Aching Bladder: Is It A UTI or IC?

Last updated: Dec 18, 2022 Post in Urology in Brooklyn by Century Medical & Dental Clinic.

The constant feeling of needing to go to the bathroom and burning urination are signs of a UTI, but they could also be resulting from IC or bladder pain syndrome that can cause similar problems. Seek medical attention if your symptoms persist or worsen as they can result in complications and damage to the kidney. The expert urology doctors at the Century Medical and Dental Center use advanced diagnostic methods to figure out if your symptoms are a result of a disease or injury to your urinary tract, kidney, or associated organs. They come up with positive solutions to improve your quality of life by eliminating pain and ensuring overall wellbeing.

The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine. As it fills, the muscles in its walls relax so it can expand. It empties during urination, as the muscles contract to squeeze the urine out through the urethra.

An aching bladder can result from anything, from a minor infection to life-threatening health conditions like cancer. Symptoms are often confusing as they range from discomfort in the lower abdomen area to burning with urination. The most common causes of bladder pain include urinary tract infection and interstitial cystitis. UTI and IC cause similar symptoms, but IC is often confused with UTI. It is essential to seek medical attention to know if it is a urinary infection or painful bladder syndrome that is causing the problem.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract that affects the bladder and the urethra, the tube that carries the urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. When bacteria from the skin or rectum enter the urethra and infect the urinary tract, it results in urinary tract infection. The infection can affect several parts of the urinary tract, but it usually affects the bladder.

A UTI infection can also affect the bladder lining, and it becomes red, swollen, and inflamed.

Commonly experienced symptoms of UTI include:

  • The urgency to urinate or run to the bathroom again and again;
  • The feeling that you need to urinate even if your bladder is not full and you only urinate a few drops;
  • A sensation of burning when urinating;
  • Pain in the abdomen or lower back;
  • Pelvic pressure;
  • Feeling of bloating, abdominal and pelvic discomfort during urination;
  • Reddish or dark orange tinted blood in the urine signifies infection;
  • Cloudy urine with an odor;
  • Fever or chills.

What is Interstitial Cystitis (IC)?

Interstitial Cystitis (IC)
Interstitial Cystitis (IC)

Also known as bladder pain syndrome (BPS), interstitial cystitis is another type of pelvic health condition. It is a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder lining that causes pain and pressure in the pelvic area around the bladder.

It mostly affects young and middle-aged women.

It is not exactly the same as UTI, but due to the similarity in symptoms, it often becomes a challenge to distinguish between the two. Symptoms of IC are often similar to those of UTI, which end up creating confusion regarding the diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of IC or BPS include:

  • Pain in the bladder;
  • Pain in the pelvic region surrounding the bladder;
  • Painful urination without the presence of bacteria or infection;
  • Urgent and frequent need to urinate, even if the bladder is not full;
  • Bladder stiffening or scarring;
  • Urinary urgency;
  • Decreased bladder capacity;
  • Urinary incontinence;
  • Low-grade fever;
  • Discomfort in penis or scrotum;
  • Painful sexual intercourse.

Stress is another common symptom of IC, but it does cause the condition. Women are more likely to get painful bladder syndrome than men, and their symptoms can worsen during their periods.

As IC progresses, cycles of pain, called flare-ups or flares and relief occur. For some people, symptoms may vary from day to day.

The Difference between UTI and IC

UTI and interstitial cystitis are interconnected, yet they are different.

According to healthcare experts, for women who have interstitial cystitis, their urine culture results will be negative. It means that no bacteria are found in the urine with a urinary tract infection. With IC, women may also experience pain during sexual intercourse, another symptom not commonly associated with a UTI.

There are some key differences between these two conditions:

  • Lower urinary tract infections can cause bacterial cystitis, but not always. On the other hand, cystitis can’t lead to UTI;
  • Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder and is limited to it. UTI may occur in the bladder, but it may also occur in the kidneys or uterus;
  • UTI is bacterial usually caused by Escherichia coli. Cystitis is bladder inflammation, which may be caused by a bacterial infection, but it may also be caused by immune dysfunction or other problems.

UTI can directly cause bacterial cystitis, or indirectly cause interstitial cystitis. If left untreated UTI can lead to chronic bladder inflammation, which is the underlying cause of interstitial cystitis.
Urinary Tract Infection

Diagnosis and Treating UTI and Interstitial Cystitis

The urologist may diagnose UTI by detecting the presence of bacteria in a urine sample. The doctor may perform a thorough pelvic exam to ensure nothing in the vagina or bladder is causing infection and goes through your medical history to check for other conditions.

He may also recommend other diagnostic tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, cystoscopy, potassium sensitivity test, or urine culture to know about the underlying causes of infection. UTI can be effectively treated by your primary care doctor who will help you seek relief from the pain and burning sensation that accompanies this infection.

Treatment options for relieving UTI include:

  • A course of antibiotics;
  • Over the counter medication;
  • Increased hydration.

However, if you suffer from urinary tract infections frequently, you may need to undergo further investigation to know more about recurring infections and possible complications.

Treatment for IC is not as easy as it is tough to diagnose, and no exact cause has been pointed out for this condition. It has been noticed that many IC patients also have other health conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, and pelvic floor dysfunction. The doctor tests for other conditions that cause similar symptoms to diagnose IC once other causes are ruled out.

Treating IC

There is no cure for IC, but treatments can provide relief from painful symptoms. Treatment is chosen for each patient based on the symptoms and the condition. A combination of treatments is often helpful in seeking relief.

The doctor may also recommend several different therapies to alleviate and reduce feelings of unease accompanied by this ailment.

They include:

  • Physical therapy by a specialized pelvic health physical therapist with training in IC; specific exercises can improve the symptom of IC and provide relief;
  • Dietary changes such as avoiding foods that irritate the bladder or trigger painful symptoms;
  • Increasing water intake;
  • Medications for relieving IC symptoms;
  • Bladder distention.

An aching bladder is not a good sign, and you must not leave it untreated. UTI and IC have similar symptoms, but they are different ailments and must be accurately diagnosed for the right treatment. Schedule an appointment with the best urologist at the Century Medical and Dental Center to get your condition diagnosed, as living with urinary or kidney problems can be very painful and lead to complications. The experienced and board-certified doctors will recommend the best treatments and support to help you seek relief from painful symptoms of bladder infection and lead a normal life.

SHARE THIS POST Page Updated on Dec 18, 2022 by Dr. Dvorkina (Primary Care Doctor) of Century Medical & Dental Center
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