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Millions of people live with bladder pain in the United States. Many times, this is caused by a common ailment called a urinary tract infection. However, it’s possible that your pain may actually be caused by a condition called interstitial cystitis, which is very different from a UTI but presents with similar symptoms.

While natural UTI prevention is a good step to fighting infection, it won’t necessarily prevent IC flare ups. That’s why figuring out which condition you have is essential to proper treatment.

What Is the Difference Between a UTI and IC?

A urinary tract infection is an infection in your urinary system, which is comprised of your urethra, ureters, kidneys and bladder. This infection can be caused by sexual contact, kidney stones or a suppressed immune system.

Interstitial cystitis, on the other hand, isn’t caused by bacteria the way an infection is. Instead, it’s a condition where the urinary bladder becomes inflamed. This can be caused by your diet, an allergy, an autoimmune disorder or a defect in the bladder lining.

How Can You Determine Which You Have?

Interstitial cystitis symptoms include the following:

  • Frequent or urgent urination
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pressure or pain in the genital area
  • Symptoms last longer than six weeks

Oftentimes, IC symptoms are so similar to those of a UTI that the condition may be misdiagnosed. To determine if you have IC, your physician should test for infection. If there’s no infection, you may have this chronic illness.

How Is IC Treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for IC, but it can be managed to reduce painful flare-ups. Your physician may recommend treatments such as these:

  • Acupuncture
  • Bladder training
  • Changing your diet
  • Neuromodulation therapy
  • Reducing stress
  • Gardenia essential oil

If you’re struggling with urinary bladder pain, there are treatments available. Through correct diagnosis and the assistance of a medical professional, you can reclaim your life from chronic urinary tract pain.