What is Interstitial Cystitis?
Interstitial Cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome occurs when the walls of your bladder become inflamed. Unfortunately, it is a chronic condition with no cure at this time. I was diagnosed with this condition recently and thought I would share some of the information I found. For me, it feels like a really bad urinary tract infection without the relief that antibiotics can bring. However there are other many other symptoms that can accompany it.
- Urge to urinate
- Pain when urinating
- Frequent urination (up to 60 times a day)
- Pelvic pain – can be a dull pain or sharp and piercing
- Lower back or stomach pain
- Pain during or after intercourse
Sometimes these symptoms are mild and sometimes they are very severe. They can last for weeks or even years. When I was first diagnosed, my symptoms lasted for about 8 weeks. I kept going to the local clinic for a UTI, they would prescribe antibiotics and pyridium (pain medicine like Azzo). The symptoms would go away. Then they would call a day or two later and tell me there wasn’t an infection so stop taking the antibiotics. A few days would go by and the symptoms would reappear. This went on for about 6 weeks until I finally got an appointment with my wonderful functional medicine doctor. After she ran some tests to rule out other possible conditions she called me with the IC diagnosis.
Causes and Associated Conditions
The exact cause is not known. However researchers seem to believe that it starts with some type of damage to the bladder. The damage can come from things such as trauma due to surgery, a bacterial infection, long periods without bathroom access or autoimmune disease. In my case I believe it is related to my autoimmune diseases. Once the bladder is damaged, people with Interstitial Cystitis cannot seem to grow new bladder cells to repair the problem. Some condtions that are related to IC include:
- Senstitive skin
- Celiac disease
- Chronic Fatigue
Although there is not a cure there are treatments to help relieve the pain including OTC pain medication, topical pain medicines and narcotics. Other possibilities for relieving symptoms include antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicines or immunosuppresants. Diet modifications, stress management and physical therapy are also recommended. In addition, the Healthy Focus website has a list of essential oils that can be tried to help ease symptoms.When these options don’t help, bladder instillations or surgery is sometimes necessary.
So far I have been lucky with diet modifications and OTC pain medications. Although the list of foods to avoid is long and can be hard to give up (including chocolate, coffee, citrus, spicy foods and vinegar) it does seem to be helpful for me. Now, when I feel a flare coming I follow the IC elimination diet. I also document the things I am eating in case the symptoms continue. Drinking a lot of water helps as well by diluting the urine.
Millions of people are affected by Interstitial Cystitis. So if you or anyone you know suffers from these symptoms I hope you find this information helpful. For more detailed information check out the Interstitial Cystitis Association’s webpage.