Interstitial Cystitis: Enhancing Early Identification in Primary Care Settings

Brittany N. Heck, FNP, MSN


Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 2007;3(8):509-519. 

In This Article


Reaching an accurate and early diagnosis of IC and PBS can be difficult in the primary care setting. Diagnosis is frequently delayed as a result of an unclear cause, lack of diagnostic criteria, and variable clinical presentation of the disease. As a chronic disease, the syndrome progresses over time only to exert physical and emotional strain on patients. The signs and symptoms of IC often mimic those of other gynecologic and urologic diseases, which often makes diagnosis difficult. Although a past history of frequent UTIs is often a red flag for IC, diagnosis is often delayed when primary care providers continue to treat for UTIs. When a patient presents with any combination of symptoms such as urgency, frequency, or chronic pelvic pain, primary care providers should always consider IC in the differential. Symptoms such as dyspareunia, nocturia, flares related to allergy exacerbation, or pain relief on urination are additional clues that commonly support a diagnosis of IC. Early identification and diagnosis are crucial. Several beneficial treatment interventions are currently available, and, when initiated early, improve symptoms. However, increased awareness of the pathophysiology and the latest screening and testing tools must be addressed within the primary care setting. As such, primary care providers must possess a clear understanding of how to recognize, diagnose, and treat the disease to minimize negative physical and emotional affects for patients.


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