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Interstitial Cystitis: The Most Misdiagnosed Chronic Urinary Condition

December 3, 2020

Another urge to tinkle, another trip to the bathroom. And then hardly anything to show for it. If your daily toilet routine plays out in an infinite loop, you may have something to ponder beyond just your fluid intake. Possibly interstitial cystitis.  Interstitial cystitis is a chronic bladder condition that gives rise to pain and pressure in the bladder and pelvis.

It can be a challenge to diagnose, as many of its symptoms overlap with other pelvic and bladder diseases. While there is no permanent cure for the condition, there are treatments available that can alleviate symptoms. If you notice pelvic pain or pressure that lasts longer than 6 weeks, you should have yourself checked for interstitial cystitis.

Understanding Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis affects the bladder’s ability to communicate fullness to the brain. Normally, the bladder expands to accommodate urine to its fullest capacity before sending pelvic nerve signals to the brain for evacuation. That’s your time to hit the toilet. Only, in interstitial cystitis, this communication gets lost. As a result, you may experience painful urinary urges, and be forced to visit the bathroom frequently. In more severe cases, you could clock up to 60 bathroom visits a day.

Interstitial cystitis can be a challenging condition to deal with, hampering your daily routine, your sleep and even your focus and concentration. However, with the right information and treatments, you can take a proactive approach in tackling symptoms.

Causes of Interstitial Cystitis

The exact cause of interstitial cystitis is not known. However, some risk factors are thought to include:

  • Defective bladder lining: Ruptures in the bladder lining allow toxic substances in the urine to pass through and aggravate the bladder wall
  • Autoimmune conditions: Autoimmune disorders caused by bladder infections are an unproven, yet possible cause
  • Heredity: Genetics may play a role in passing the condition along
  • Allergies: Seasonal allergies and food sensitivity have been linked to  heightened interstitial cystitis symptoms
  • Other chronic pain conditions: Disorders such as fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome can increase the risk of interstitial cystitis
  • Age: Being older than 30 can make women more susceptible to the condition

Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis

Symptoms of interstitial cystitis may be persistent, or may appear sporadically, in response to hormonal, physical or psychological triggers like stress, exercise, menstruation or sexual stimulation. Some symptoms include:

  • Chronic pelvic, vaginal or anal pain
  • Frequent urge to urinate (up to 60 times a day)
  • Severe discomfort with a full bladder
  • Instant relief after urination
  • Pain during intercourse

Treatment of Interstitial Cystitis

About 50% of interstitial cystitis cases improve on their own, without any medical treatment. For those who do opt for treatment, a combination of measures may be recommended. Treatment is usually tailored to an individual, and may take months to get right. Typical treatment lines are highlighted below.

Medical Management

Oral medication in the form of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines and pentosan poly sulphate sodium can help to relieve symptoms. Bladder instillation is another route that your doctor may recommend. This involves the infusion of a medication known as dimethyl sulfoxide into the bladder via a catheter. The procedure is usually performed weekly for up to eight weeks and is noted for its pain relief benefits.

Surgical Management

Surgical options for interstitial cystitis include fulguration, resection and bladder augmentation.


Physiotherapy routines can bolster your pelvic floor, lessen pelvic pain, and reduce muscular aches, tenderness and abnormalities.

Nerve Stimulation

Electrical pulses via nerve stimulation can serve as effective pain relievers. Nerve stimulation may be performed as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or sacral nerve stimulation.

Bladder Distention

Bladder distention involves expanding the bladder with water via a cystoscopy. The procedure is known to elicit short-term improvement, and is usually repeated to maintain outcomes.

Home Remedies

There are various measures you can take at home to minimise symptoms. These include dietary changes (finding and limiting foods that irritate the bladder), bladder training, wearing breathable clothing, reducing stress, exercising regularly and quitting smoking.

While there is no cure for interstitial cystitis, you can certainly overcome any associated pain and discomfort by taking control of your symptoms. Don’t let your bladder rob you of your day. With an effective treatment plan, win back all your lost hours.

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