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Bladder Pain!

How to spot cystitis

WebMD Feature

Oct. 16, 2000 -- More than fifteen years ago, when she was a medical student and in her 20s, Vicki Ratner, MD, learned a valuable lesson about being a patient -- and about trusting her instincts. Ratner spent several frustrating months consulting one physician after another, 14 in all, trying to find out what was causing her constant urge to urinate and debilitating bladder pain. Each doctor gave her basically the same message: There's nothing wrong with your bladder; the pain is in your head. "Ten of the doctors also told me that if I couldn't hack it in medical school, I should quit," says Ratner, who is now an orthopedic surgeon in Los Gatos, Calif.

Ratner knew that her pain was no figment, and instead of dropping out of school, she did some research. She went to her school's library, did a medical literature search, and quickly came upon a description of a disorder with symptoms that were identical to hers. Armed with a name for her pain, she paid a visit to one of the physicians who had earlier dismissed her. "I told him I had interstitial cystitis [IC]," says Ratner, "and he told me that this was impossible -- that IC was a rare disorder that only affected postmenopausal women."

As it turns out, Ratner was right. A few months later, she was able to secure an interview to discuss her experience on Good Morning America. "Within a week I got 10,000 letters from women of all ages who thanked me for finally giving them an answer," Ratner says. "Most of these women also told me that their doctors had said that they were crazy."

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