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What Are The First Symptoms Of Interstitial Cystitis & How Do You Test For It?

Interstitial cystitis or IC refers to a condition, which involves recurring pelvic pressure, pain, or discomfort in the pelvic and bladder region. The problem also involves urinary frequency i.e. need to go to the bathroom more often or urgency i.e. a strong need to urinate.(1)

Individuals with IC problems experience pressure, discomfort, pain, or tenderness in the bladder, pelvic area, and lower abdominal region. Symptoms also vary among patients and may go and come, while the change in individuals as time passes.(2)

Approximately one million Americans experience interstitial cystitis and women are highly prone to such problems, while they diagnose with IC even during the 40s.(3)

What Are The First Symptoms Of Interstitial Cystitis?

Symptoms associated with interstitial cystitis may vary among individuals. They even change daily or weekly and may linger for many months/years. On the other side, in some patients, the problem goes away without requiring any treatment. Common symptoms include the following-

  • Bladder pain and pressure, which become worse as it fills up
  • Pain in the lower abdomen/tummy, lower back, urethra or pelvis, where urethra refers to the tube responsible for carrying pee out of your body from the bladder
  • Urge to pee frequently i.e. more than 7times or 8times in a day
  • Feeling to urinate right now even right after you visit the bathroom
  • Women feel pain in the vagina, vulva or the surrounding area of the vagina
  • Men experience pain in the penis, testicles, scrotum and the surrounding area of the scrotum
  • Both women and men experience pain at the time of sex and/or orgasm

Bladder pain in the case of interstitial cystitis ranges from a minor ache to piercing pain. Peeing may even feel as similar to a small sting or as a severe type of burning.(4)

How Do You Test For Interstitial Cystitis?

Doctors may test for interstitial cystitis based on the following procedures-

Bladder Diary And Medical History: Doctors will ask to describe the symptoms you experience and ask to maintain a bladder diary. A diary is responsible for recording the exact volume of fluids you consume in a day and the volume of urine you release.

Urine Test: Doctors will analyze your collected urine sample to detect any sign or symptom related to urinary tract infection.

Pelvic Examination: During your pelvic examination, the doctor will examine the external genitals, cervix, and vagina and feel the abdomen while assessing the interval pelvic organs. Besides, the doctor may examine your rectum and anus.

Urine Cytology: Your doctor will collect a sample of urine and examine the pelvic cells for ruling out the symptoms of cancer.

Cystoscopy: Your doctor will insert a thin tube equipped with a small camera i.e. cystoscope from your urethra to show the bladder lining. Your doctor may even inject a liquid in your bladder for measuring its capacity. For this, doctors will perform the hydrodistention procedure after they numb you by applying anesthesia and thereby, make you comfortable.

Potassium Sensitivity Test: Your doctor will place or instill two different solutions i.e. potassium chloride and water in the bladder at one time. He/she may ask you to rate a scale from 0 to 5 the urgency and pain you experience after the installation of each solution. If you experience more urgency or pain with potassium solution as compared to with water, your doctor will diagnose interstitial cystitis. People, who have normal urinary bladders, fail to determine any difference between the two different solutions.

Biopsy: Doctors will remove a tissue sample from your urethra and bladder to examine under an electron microscope. This test detects bladder cancer and any other rare cause of bladder pain.(5)


To conclude, we should say that patients with interstitial cystitis have diverse symptoms and the diagnosis procedures depend on the underlying condition.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 2, 2020

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