Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is the chronic inflammation of the bladder wall and is most common in women although men and children can suffer from it. Unlike cystitis, IC is not caused by bacteria and cannot be treated with antibiotics as common cystitis is.
We know that chronic pelvic pain is often caused by more than one problem. If you treat only one cause, the condition does not improve so it is vital to get to the bottom of what is causing the inflammation before treatment commences. Doctors often misdiagnose this condition due to a general lack of awareness surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of IC. Women are diagnosed again and again with urinary tract infections and while they are treated for this, their IC only worsens.
The latest research suggests that 3 million women have IC and they experience constant discomfort in the bladder. The symptoms are usually described by women as something akin to the worst urinary tract infection they have experienced accompanied by burning pains whenever the bladder needs to be emptied which can be a necessity up to 60 times a day in certain cases! Early on in the condition, the frequency in the need to urinate is sometimes the only symptom and pain and pressure can coincide with this sense of urgency. Pain will be felt in the abdominal, vaginal or urethral areas and is often experienced during sexual intercourse.
In order to diagnose this condition correctly, urine will firstly be tested for bacteria to rule out a urinary tract infection and secondly a cytoscope will be used to examine the bladder. A biopsy may need to be taken from the bladder to make sure that cancer is not the cause of discomfort.
Symptoms of common cystitis should not be confused with IC. With cystitis the urine will appear cloudy and foul smelling. A urine test will reveal the presence of bacteria and a burning pain will be experienced upon urination. Pain will not be experienced as the bladder fills and bouts of cystitis will last no longer than a few days.
There is no known cure for IC. A combination of treatments and changes in lifestyle might need to be adopted before symptoms have disappeared. Acidic foods, fizzy drinks, tomatoes, spices, sweeteners and citric acid will have an effect on the increase in severity of the symptoms.
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of bladder cancer and interestingly, people who smoke with IC find that the symptoms are worse when they are smoking. Bladder training will help to prevent the frequency with which one needs to urinate. Physical therapy can serve to relax pelvic floor muscular spasms and finally, a TENS machine can be used to transmit electrical pulses to the body thus increasing blood flow to the bladder, strengthening muscles and influencing the release of hormones which impede pain. Much research needs to be carried out so that we may better understand Interstitial Cystitis but until then, there are ways of managing the condition. The best treatment is a correct diagnosis and the sooner this happens the better.