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Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you about your urine (urine color, odor, presence of blood), symptoms during urination, any pain you are having, and if you are having fever, nausea or vomiting. Your answers to these questions will provide clues about other possible causes of your symptoms, such as a bladder or kidney infection.

Next, your doctor will examine you and will collect urine from you for laboratory tests that check for signs of infection and infection-causing bacteria. Women usually will need a pelvic exam and men will need a digital rectal exam to check the prostate gland.

There is no one sign or test that can tell you immediately if you have interstitial cystitis. Usually, doctors diagnose the condition after a person has had persistent symptoms and no other cause has been found.

Your doctor probably will refer you to a urologist to help make the diagnosis. He or she will do a test called cystoscopy to look for indications that you have interstitial cystitis and make sure there are no other causes of your symptoms.

During cystoscopy, the urologist uses a small tube like instrument to look inside your bladder and examine its inner lining. In a test called a biopsy a small sample of tissue may be taken from your bladder wall to be examined in a laboratory to look for signs of inflammation and to check for other illnesses, including cancer. During the cystoscopy, your urologist may test your bladder's maximum capacity by filling it with sterile water. This is to determine whether interstitial cystitis has reduced your bladder's ability to hold urine.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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