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How do interstitial cystitis and cystitis differ?

I thought my doctor diagnosed me with interstitial cystitis because I had a urinary tract infection. But then I got home and started trying to do research on it, and often people seem to be just calling it cystitis. Are these the same thing or are they different? Which one do I have?
This is a great question that involves some very common confusion about closely related medical words. The doctors who are well qualified to discuss the issue with you include your OB / GYN doctor or your primary care doctor. "Cystitis" is a medical word that means "inflammation of the bladder." If this inflammation comes on rather quickly, characterized by burning or frequent urination, it is called "acute cystitis." Although some other things can cause it, such as certain drugs, by far the most common cause of acute cystitis is a urinary tract infection. For this reason, the terms urinary tract infection and acute cystitis are often used interchangeably. On the other hand, if the inflammation in the bladder is more long-standing, it may be referred to as "chronic cystitis." The most common cause of chronic cystitis is "interstitial cystitis," which is a difficult, chronic health problem that is not caused by an infection or other obvious cause but that has many of the same symptoms as acute cystitis. As always, the diagnosis and the management of your specific condition would require a physical examination by your personal physician. If you have persistent symptoms or more questions, you could schedule an office visit with your primary care doctor or your OB / GYN doctor.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.

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