How does the doctor diagnose interstitial cystitis?
There is no one test that is specific for interstitial cystitis. Because other conditions can cause the same symptoms, a diagnosis is made only after other possible causes are ruled out. Other conditions that can cause the same symptoms include:
- Bladder cancer
- Chronic prostatitis in men
- Kidney stones
- Sexually transmitted disease
- Urinary tract infection
- Vaginal infection
The doctor will start by asking you about your symptoms. Then the doctor will give you a physical exam and ask for a series of tests to rule out other possible causes. Those tests include:
- Urine analysis and urine culture. This involves taking a sample of urine to study in the lab. Red and white blood cells and bacteria in the urine indicate an infection. If the urine is sterile while symptoms persist, the doctor may suspect IC.
- Cystoscopy with bladder distention. With this test, the doctor looks at the inside of your bladder using a cystoscope. That's a hollow tube with a light and lenses that the doctor inserts through the urethra, the tube that urine passes through when you urinate. During the exam, the doctor may fill the bladder with a liquid or gas to distend or stretch it. This allows a better view of the walls and makes it easier to check for abnormalities. Because distension is painful, this procedure is done with some form of anesthesia.
- Biopsy. During the cystoscopy, the doctor may take a small sample of tissue to examine under a microscope to rule out bladder cancer. Having IC does not increase your risk for bladder cancer.
Can IC be treated?
Because there is no cure for interstitial cystitis, the goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Not everyone with IC responds the same way to the same treatment. What works for one person may not work for another. In addition, IC treatments generally take several weeks to several months to provide relief. When you discuss your treatment options with your doctor, your doctor will help you decide which one might work best for you. Treatment options include: