Do You Feel Like You Need to "Go" All the Time?

Do You Feel Like You Need to "Go" All the Time?

The symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) and interstitial cystitis (IC) can be strikingly similar, so it’s easy to get the two confused.

You might be experiencing:

  • Frequent urination, even if little urine is expelled
  • Increased urgency to urinate
  • Burning or pain with urination
  • Discomfort during intercourse
  • Generalized pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Blood in your urine

These are all symptoms that can be associated with either a UTI or IC, says Virtua urogynecologist Joseph Maccarone, MD. Even though they share the same symptoms, the causes of the two are very different. A UTI is a bacterial infection, which means it’s easily diagnosed with a urine culture and treated with antibiotics. IC has no known cause and is a nonspecific inflammatory condition, which means diagnosis and treatment are less straightforward.

Here are 5 things you need to know if you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms.

  1. If you think you have a UTI, but your urine culture doesn’t indicate a bacterial infection, you may have IC.

  2. If you notice any correlation between what you’re eating and your urinary symptoms, you may have IC. Often, spicy foods, citrus fruits, caffeine, and alcohol worsen IC symptoms. “Your diet would have no effect on the development of a UTI,” says Dr. Maccarone.

  3. There are two types of cystoscopy (a procedure in which a thin tube with a camera is inserted into your urethra) used to diagnose IC. “If your doctor examines you with a cystoscope during an office procedure (while you’re awake), and says you don’t have IC, you may need a second opinion,” says Dr. Maccarone. “Cystoscopy that is performed under anesthesia is much more effective at finding IC, and has the added benefit of possibly alleviating symptoms for months or even years afterward.”

  4. If you are diagnosed with a UTI but you don’t experience 100% improvement after a round of antibiotics, you may have IC. Any woman can develop a UTI, including someone with IC, so it’s important to tell your doctor if you’re still uncomfortable after you finish your UTI treatment.

  5. Women with other inflammatory conditions may be more likely to develop IC. These conditions include fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorders).

Whether you have a UTI or IC, your quality of life should be your guide. Chronic or recurring pelvic or urinary symptoms should never be ignored, and many treatment options are available to help you feel better.

Updated June 6, 2016

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