Unless you are a doctor or in the medical field, you’ve probably never heard the term “interstitial cystitis” before. It sounds technical, and it’s hard to pronounce. It’s nothing too complicated, though: it means severe bladder pain.
However, just because you have bladder pain, it does not necessarily mean that you have interstitial cystitis. You’ll need to see a qualified medical professional before you can reach that determination.
Let’s get to know this condition a little bit better, and talk about some options if it does turn out that you have it.
How Common is Interstitial Cystitis?
As it turns out, this condition is more common than you might think. In the US, doctors estimate that between three and eight million women and one and four million men have it. It:
- Can be mild or severe
- Is not curable but is treatable
It often manifests as bladder pain, bladder pressure, or occasionally pelvic pain. It’s part of a broader spectrum of conditions under the general title of painful bladder syndrome.
How Does It Work?
- Stores urine
- Is a muscular, hollow organ that fills up with urine over time until you feel the need for release
As it fills, it expands. It then sends a strong signal to your brain that you have to urinate. Most people learn fairly early on in their lives what this feels like and what it means.
It is the pelvic nerves that let you know when your bladder is full. However, if you have interstitial cystitis, it crosses the signals. You feel the need to urinate more than most people do, but your bladder is not as full when the urge hits you.
It Can Impact Your Life Quality
As we mentioned earlier, more women have it than men do. It can impact your life dramatically in some cases. You often experience pain or discomfort, and you have a hard time emptying your bladder satisfactorily.
In women, it can flare up when you’re menstruating. You can experience it more acutely when there’s stress in your life or when you’ve been sitting for a long time.
Sexual activity can cause it to flare up, and certain exercises can as well.
Apart from pain and a frequent urination urge, you might also experience pain during sexual intercourse. You may feel discomfort or pain when your bladder fills. When you urinate, you feel better.
You might also have a near-constant urination urge, but then, when the time comes, you can’t get very much to come out. You might have to urinate as many as sixty times per day in extreme cases.
As you can imagine, it makes your daily life quite difficult, since you never want to be far from a bathroom. If you have a urinary tract infection, that can worsen all these symptoms.
What Causes It?
Medical science does not know this condition’s exact cause. If you have a defect in the bladder’s protective lining, also called the epithelium, then you’re more likely to have it. Such a leak can allow toxic substances in urine to irritate the bladder.
Other factors might be heredity, infection, allergies, and autoimmune disease. If you’re assigned female at birth, you’re more likely to have it, but your hair and skin color can play a part too. If you have natural red hair or fair skin, you’re more likely to develop it.
You’re not likely to receive this diagnosis until your 30s or older. You might contract it if you have other chronic pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome.
If a doctor diagnoses you with it, then there are several possible treatments. They might decide to try you on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aleve or Ibuprofen.
They may elect to try tricyclic antidepressants such as Tofranil. These can block the pain and help your bladder to relax. Antihistamines such as Claritin and others also work sometimes. They may reduce the urgent urination feeling.
In extremely rare cases, doctors might look at surgical options. They’ll probably try most of the other options we mentioned first.
There is a surgical option called fulguration, where a doctor inserts instruments through the urethra to burn off ulcers that the condition might cause.
If you suspect that you might have this condition, then talk to your doctor about it. There are several different treatments that you can try, and there is no reason why you should continue to live your life in pain and discomfort.