Interstitial cystitis is officially defined as “an unpleasant sensation (pain, pressure, discomfort) perceived to be related to the urinary bladder, associated with lower urinary tract symptoms of more than six weeks duration, in the absence of infection or other identifiable causes.” Interstitial cystitis is ultimately a chronic inflammation of the bladder that causes pain and discomfort. As a result, the condition causes urgency and increased frequency of urination.
People of any age can develop the condition; however it is more likely to develop in middle age. Interstitial Cystitis is more common in women. Healthcare professionals remain unsure of what exactly causes IC. As the condition varies depending on the person, specialists believe there may be multiple causes which include the following:
> Any changes in nerves inside the bladder
> An autoimmune response. This is where the body attacks its own organs and tissue
> A defect in the lining of the bladder. This defect can allow harmful substances found in urine to come into contact with the bladder wall
> An overproduction of histamine or other potentially harmful chemicals by mast cells
> This is a special type of cell that is involved in allergic reactions
Some research has suggested that certain people are predisposed to get Interstitial Cystitis after an infection or injury to the bladder. The urine of people with Interstitial Cystitis contains a substance known as the antiproliferative factor, which appears to block the development of cells in the bladder lining.
What are the symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis?
The pain people feel from interstitial incontinence can range from a dull ache to a piercing pain. Peeing can result in feeling serious burning. Interstitial cystitis causes urgent, often painful bathroom trips. With Interstitial Cystitis, you may have to pee as many as 40-60 times a day in severe cases.
If you have urinary pain that lasts for more than 6 weeks and are aware it is not caused by other conditions such as an infection or kidney stones, you may have Interstitial Cystitis. The disease can affect your social life, exercise, sleep, and even your ability to work.
It is useful to familiarise yourself with the common symptoms of interstitial cystitis to know when it is important to visit your GP or specialist for guidance.
Common symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis:
Symptoms of the condition can vary from person to person. They can change every day or week or linger for months or years.
Here are the common symptoms people often experience when they suffer from Interstitial Cystitis:
> Inflamed bladder. 5-10% of people with the condition report getting ulcers in their bladderPain in the scrotum, testicles, penis, or the area behind the scrotum is common in men with the condition
> Pain in the scrotum, testicles, penis, or the area behind the scrotum is common in men with the condition
> Bladder pressure and pain that gets worse as your bladder fills up
> Pain in your lower tummy, lower back, pelvis, or urethra
> For women, pain in the vulva, vagina, or the area behind the vagina
> The feeling you need to urinate even right after you just been to the bathroom
> The need to pee often. Many Doctors assert that it is a cause for concern if you urinate more than the normal 7-8 times daily
> For women, pain during sex
> For men, pain during orgasm or after sex
How to reduce the symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis
There are a number of things you can do to help treat the condition. This can include doing activities that help you to relax, such as exercise or regular warm baths. Avoiding certain foods or drinks that can worsen the condition such as tomatoes and alcohol if you notice they make your symptoms worse. Stopping smoking has also been proven to help the condition, as the chemicals you breathe in while smoking may irritate your bladder.
Watching how much liquid you consume and when can also have a positive impact on your quality of life. Try to reduce the amount you drink before going to bed and take regular planned toilet breaks may help stop your bladder becoming too full.
Tablets or capsules may be used to treat people with interstitial cystitis. Your GP or Doctor may recommend the following:
> Over-the-counter painkillers– such as paracetamol and ibuprofen
> Over-the-counter antihistamines– such as loratadine and cetirizine
> Stronger painkillers that are available on prescription, such as amitriptyline, gabapentin and pregabalin
> Tolterodine, solifenacin or mirabegron– these help relax the bladder muscles
> Cimetidine – this is a prescription medicine that may help by blocking the effect of a substance called histamine on cells in the bladder
> Pentosan polysulphate sodium (Elmiron)– this may help repair the bladder lining
In very rare cases and only if the condition is very extreme, it may be necessary to remove the bladder completely. If this is done, your surgeon will need to create an alternative way for urine to leave the body. This will usually be through a small hole in your tummy called a stoma, however may involve making a new bladder using part of your small intestine.
Audrey Klein is one of the many people who have found a solution for Interstitial Cystitis. She shared her story about managing the condition on the Interstitial Cystitis Help Website. Audrey admitted that during her worst point she “only left the house every two weeks for nerve blocks”. However, visiting an understanding Urologist put her on the right track to recovery. She explains, “David Gordon took an aggressive approach to reducing the inflammation and controlling the pain. The treatment was painful, but short-lived and well worth any relief from the excruciating pain.” In addition to this treatment, she underwent physical therapy for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction that “helped her to understand the importance of knowing how to relax pelvic muscles as a form of pain treatment & control.”
If you do have Interstitial Cystitis, it is important to remember you are not alone. With the help from a professional and making positive life changes, you can reduce the symptoms successfully.