Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is It an Interstitial Cystitis Flare or a Urinary Tract Infection?

First, a quick story. The winter after I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, my husband and I drove our three kids from Michigan to Florida's Disney World for a vacation. After making all of the plans, packing everyone, helping my kids study for exams, etc. I was feeling horrible--my bladder felt like it was on fire with the pain. I basically chalked it up to a nasty IC flare because of the stress and busy-ness of packing, etc. Well, about half-way to Florida I got very, very sick. I was nauseous, trying not to stop every half hour to pee, and was near a mental breakdown because of the urinary pain. I was taking Pyriduim and narcotics by the clock.

We got to Ocala (about an hour from Disney), and I couldn't take it anymore. I HAD to go to the hospital. Ever the "good mommy" I made sure everyone was settled in a hotel with a pool BEFORE I drove myself to the hospital a few miles away. I was getting sicker by the minute and after the fact realized I had no business behind the wheel of the van.

When I got to the Emergency Department they could tell I was in rough shape (more than I knew myself) and took me right back. I had a male NP who examined me. He listened to everything I had to say, actually was interested to learn something new, then took it upon himself to call the Interstitial Cystitis Association to find out more. In my condition, I didn't want anyone poking around "down there," but I have to say he gave me the gentlest pelvic exam I ever had. When my labs came back, I was off the charts with a bladder infection. After twelve hours on an antibiotic I was feeling brand new and our vacation was not disrupted after that.

I couldn't believe that with everything I was experiencing I didn't recognize that I had an infection. I had hot foamy urine, I had a fever, I was nauseated, and as I said, almost mentally insane with the pain. I was also experiencing pain while urinating and when my bladder was empty, not just when my bladder was full. I was trying to be as stoic as possible about it all, so as not to ruin anything for the family. But, if I had waited any longer, I could have ended up with a kidney infection or worse.

I think the most important lesson I can pass on to you is to see a physician as soon as you think something is wrong and different than your usual bladder symptoms. You can buy UTI test kits to use at home, but even if the test shows a bladder infection, you must see a doctor to be prescribed the correct antibiotic. Don't be shy; ask for a "culture and sensitivity" to be done on your urine sample to be SURE that you are getting a drug that will most efficiently fight the infection you have.

I do think it takes some time to relearn our body's signals, but it can be done. Although I still get urinary tract infections occasionally, more often than not I catch them before they get too bad.

Author, Speaker, Patient Advocate

For more ways to help with UTIs and IC pain:


For step by step guidance for creating your own personal interstitial cystitis meal plan, see: Confident Choices®: Customizing the Interstitial Cystitis Diet.

For some basic, family-style, IC bladder-friendly recipes, see: Confident Choices®: A Cookbook for Interstitial Cystitis and Overactive Bladder