Commonly known as painful bladder syndrome, interstitial cystitis (IC) is a complex condition that is identified by chronic inflammation of the bladder lining and muscle layers, which produces the following symptoms:
pelvic and abdominal pain and pressure
pain with intercourse
urgency (feeling like you need to urinate, even right after urinating)
incontinence (accidental leakage of urine)
symptoms similar to recurrent bladder infections
IC can be difficult to diagnose, since the above symptoms are also shared with other disorders, like urinary tract infections, endometriosis, and bladder cancer. You are usually diagnosed with IC once other disorders have been ruled out. An office procedure, called a potassium sensitivity test (PST), can be used to make a definitive diagnosis.
IC affects mostly women, but men and children can get it as well. The exact cause of IC is not known, but it’s thought that several factors may damage the lining of the bladder and therefore trigger the disorder. These include:
trauma to the bladder lining (e.g. from surgical procedures)
excessive stretching of the bladder, usually due to long periods without a bathroom break
weakened or dysfunctional pelvic floor muscles
repeated bacterial infections
hypersensitivity or inflammation of pelvic nerves
There is no cure for IC. Elmiron is the only FDA-approved treatment for IC- it may take several months to begin working. Most people use a combination of treatments, and you may have to try several approaches before you settle on the therapy that provides the most relief. IC treatments may include:
Your doctor may prescribe other medications to treat the symptoms of IC. These can include nerve pain modulators, such as amitriptyline or gabapentin. Anti-spasmodics for the bladder, and medications for overactive bladder, may also be prescribed. Unfortunately, pain medications and anti-inflammatories do not seem to be effective.
A procedure that stretches the bladder using water, bladder distention can help relieve symptoms in 85% of patients. This is an outpatient procedure that requires anesthesia. It can take two to four weeks to notice improvement in your symptoms, and the effects of this procedure can last 4-9 months. Bladder instillations performed in the office can provide 1-2 weeks of relief.
Many people with IC discover that specific foods, and especially beverages, make their symptoms worse. Common foods that may worsen IC include anything acidic, like tomatoes and citrus fruits or juices, as well as soda, alcohol and caffeine.
If you’re experiencing some of the painful or uncomfortable symptoms that seem in line with IC, contact Special Care for Women. Dr. Richmond is an expert in treating IC. He uses a detailed history, urinalysis, specialized questionnaires, and the PST to diagnose IC accurately. This can confirm the need for treatment with Elmiron or hydrodistention, or help realize what medications may work instead. Contact Special Care for Women today!