If you are plagued by constant trips to the bathroom to empty your bladder and have pain and tenderness around your bladder, you may have a condition common to 700,000 Americans called interstitial cystitis or irritable bladder syndrome. Unfortunately, if you have fibromyalgia, you are more vulnerable to developing this disorder. However, treatment is available and range from medications to natural treatments.
What is Interstitial Cystitis?
Interstitial cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder characterized by frequent urination, pain in the pelvic area and urinary incontinence. People with irritable bladder syndrome may experiencing small hemorrhages on their bladder wall or get sores while the inflammation can lead to scarring on the bladder or make it rigid. If the bladder becomes stiff, it becomes difficult for it to expand as it is filled. Women are far more likely to suffer from this debilitating condition than men, although men can have the condition as well.
Cause of Interstitial Cystitis
There is no definitive cause of this bladder condition, however, a certain protein called antiproliferative factor (APF) has been located that prevents new bladder cells from growing in patients with this condition. As a result, urine is able to inflame the bladder wall. Additionally, individuals with interstitial cystitis have mixed up urinary signals, causing them to feel as though they have to urinate more often despite the fact that their bladder does not contain much fluid.
Signs and Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis
Symptoms of interstitial cystitis are often similar to those of a urinary tract infection (UTI). However, in those with interstitial cystitis, urine cultures fail to show the presence of any bacteria as they would for a UTI. Other symptoms associated with interstitial cystitis include:
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Pain between vagina and anus for women
- Pain between scrotum and anus for men
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sex for women
- Painful ejaculation in men
Diagnosis of Interstitial Cystitis
This condition can be difficult to diagnose because of similar signs and symptoms to many other disorders. It is not uncommon for it to take as much as four years before a proper diagnosis can be made.
In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor will document your medical history and may ask you to keep a diary on your bladder, recording how much you drink and how much urine you pass. Also, it will be necessary to rule out other disorders with similar symptoms. Therefore, tests to rule out vaginal infections, UTIs, sexually transmitted diseases, and chronic prostatitis (men) may be performed. Your doctor may also want to perform a cystoscopy.
A cystoscopy is a special diagnosing procedure that allows your doctor to look inside your bladder and see how much urine your bladder can hold. For this procedure, you will be put under anesthetic, either local or general, and a small tube with a camera at the end will be inserted into your urethra. During the procedure, your doctor may take out a small section of your bladder. This is done to check for bladder cancer and other bladder conditions.
Once it is confirmed that you have interstitial cystitis, you may be prescribed, Elmiron, an oral medication, to decrease urinary frequency. Your doctor may also prescribe an over-the-counter pain reliever to ease pelvic pain and tenderness. Antidepressants and antihistamines may also be used as they can help block pain.
Because the sacral nerves, which go from the lower spine to the bladder, pelvic floor and lower bowel, are responsible for controlling bladder and bowel movement, sacral nerve root modulation may be effective at relieving the symptoms of interstitial cystitis. Sacral nerve root modulation is a type of nerve stimulation by electrical device. If this type of treatment is found to be effective for you, a small battery-operated device will be implanted in your upper buttocks. The device will regularly emit electrical impulses, adjusting how the nerves function, thereby contributing to control bladder contractions.
Another option is to have bladder instillation. During this treatment, the prescription medicine dimenthyl sulfoxide (DMSO), which has been combined with other medications, is inserted directly into the bladder via a tube through the urethra. After 15 minutes, urinating expels the solution. This treatment is thought to decrease bladder irritation as well as possibly help control muscle contractions that contribute to the pain and urgency experienced by those with interstitial cystitis.
There are also various types of surgery available to people with this syndrome, including bladder augmentation, fulgaration and resection. However, they are not normally recommended as they generally do not relieve the pain of the disorder and may cause other health problems.
Natural Treatment of Interstitial Cystitis
There are a number of things you can do on your own to reduce your symptoms:
- Many people with this condition are advised to avoid alcohol, caffeine of all types and smoking as these are all known to aggravate the bladder.
- Avoid citrus products and food high in Vitamin C
- You may want to start scheduling your bathroom breaks every half-hour eventually trying to lengthen out the time between breaks.
- Certain exercises, like kegels, can help strengthen your bladder and pelvic muscles, giving you more control over your bladder.
- Wear looser clothing that do not press on your abdomen.
- Practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
- Some people have also found biofeedback and using TENS machines to be helpful.