The urologist diagnosed Ms. M with interstitial cystitis or IC, which is chronic bladder-wall inflammation. The symptoms of IC can mimic a urinary tract infection and can be misdiagnosed for years. Diagnosis is usually made by ruling out other symptom causes and through more invasive testing like cystoscopy or bladder biopsy.
There is no cure for IC, and treatments are inconsistent. Dietary modifications can help, as acidic foods and those high in potassium can further increase bladder irritation. Ms. M was actually making her symptoms worse by drinking so much cranberry juice.
Elmiron is the only oral drug approved for the treatment of IC. It helps by coating the bladder to prevent irritation. Anti-depressants and opioid pain killers can also help relieve the pain of IC. Urologists often recommend physical therapy and stress reduction to help with IC symptoms. In extreme cases, surgery may be the only option.
Ms. M’s symptoms seemed to obviously point to a urinary tract infection, but looking beyond the obvious is sometimes the key to diagnosis.