While interstitial cystitis (IC) or bladder pain syndrome (BPS) isn’t an infection, symptoms may resemble a urinary tract infection (UTI). You might experience frequent, urgent, and painful urination with pressure and/or other discomforts. The worse your suffering, the more devastating IC’s effects may be on you and your loved ones. Experts explain this debilitating condition and provide a variety of coping tips.
Exploring IC Symptoms and Causes
According to the Urology Care Foundation, roughly 80 percent of IC patients are women. But some men who receive prostatitis or similar diagnoses could actually have IC. Your genes may influence an IC occurrence, so an afflicted blood relative could increase your risk. This chronic condition occurs commonly with other painful disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Symptoms include needing to urinate very often throughout the day and overnight. Increased frequency can lead to urgency. Some patients experience unrelenting continuous urges to pee that urination doesn’t relieve. Symptoms can vary between mild and severe, occurring intermittently to constantly. Bladder discomfort might worsen as urine fills your bladder. You also could sense pain in other areas including your urethra, lumbar region, lower abdomen, pelvic area, and/or perineum.
Sensations and sexual difficulties can plague each gender differently. A woman’s vulva or vagina may hurt with any symptoms varying during menstrual cycles. Intercourse may be uncomfortable due to the bladder’s close proximity to the vagina. A man might feel IC’s effects in his testicles, scrotum, or penis. Orgasms could hurt, or he might experience next-day pain.
Scientists continue investigating various possible factors that may cause IC. These processes are likely to vary between patients. One might trigger another. Many researchers attribute IC to any combination of these conditions:
An irregularity in your bladder’s epithelium lining may allow irritating substances from your urine to infiltrate this organ.
Inflammatory mast cells could release chemicals including histamines that trigger IC bladder symptoms.
Something in your urine may damage your bladder or inhibit cell growth in its epithelium.
Nerves carrying bladder sensations may change, allowing typically non-distressing circumstances like bladder filling to cause pain.
Like other autoimmune diseases, your immune system may attack your bladder.
Contributing factors that may trigger or worsen your symptoms include:
Specific beverages and foods
Physical and/or mental stress
Some forms of exercise like riding a bicycle
Prolonged sitting, long trips, and some transportation modes
Due to multiple probable causes, no one treatment works for everyone. Your doctor will prescribe one or more medications depending on your unique symptoms. He may need to change your medicine or combination of drugs until you achieve manageable symptom relief. Atarax (Hydroxyzine), an antihistamine, controls excess pain-causing histamines in your bladder. Vesicare (Solifenacin), an overactive bladder medicine, suppresses your body’s natural chemicals that cause muscle contractions and troublesome symptoms. Non-steroidal anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil Extra-Strength Liqui-Gelsmay provide pain relief.
Medications might help you achieve remission but not cure your IC. Continuing treatment indefinitely is necessary usually because symptoms tend to recur. Medicines may decrease your symptoms but not eliminate them. You may experience symptom flare-ups, even during treatment. Frequent urination, some amount of discomfort and/or avoiding triggers may be ongoing challenges. Or your misery might improve gradually before disappearing.
For several hours, a substantial increase of symptoms (7 percent).
Symptoms are harder to bear than normal (5 percent).
Slightly worse symptoms (4 percent).
All of these definitions apply (52 percent).
When your next flare-up begins, try these tips:
Take all medications, especially for flares.
Increase your water intake to dilute your urine’s concentration.
Decrease burning during urination by drinking water with a teaspoon of baking soda.
Place a heating pad between your legs.
Sit in a warm bath.
Squat to loosen your pelvic muscles.
Adjusting Your Diet
Studies show that most IC patients are sensitive to particular dietary choices. Jill Osborne, the Interstitial Cystitis Network (ICN) president, advises not consuming anything that could hurt an open wound (see video below). Common bladder irritants include:
Regular and decaf coffee
Tea, and other caffeinated drinks
The ICN diet list of problematic foods and beverages is very extensive. Fortunately, various items affect patients differently. Do elimination tests to discover what aggravates your bladder so you don’t have to give up everything. Stop consuming all potential culprits. If your symptoms improve, something you quit was to blame. After a couple of weeks, add one discontinued option. If it doesn’t upset your bladder in the next 24 hours, it’s probably safe to resume. Wait a day before trying another potential troublemaker. Continue this process, testing just one new item per day to keep or delete potential problems. The ICA’s comparison of bothersome choices can help you choose the safest options for many favorites.