woman with interstitial cystitis
Bladder Blog

Interstitial Cystitis – A Painful Bladder Woe

When you think of a spasming bladder, what’s the first thing that comes to mind. Whoaaa or woe? Chances are, you probably think of both. Interstitial cystitis, which is a mouthful to say by the way, is a confusing and painful bladder condition. To make matters worse, it’s kind of hard to diagnose and to date, there’s no known cure.

Nonetheless, it’s a condition that deserves some attention. Interstitial cystitis affects about 3 to 8 million American women, and fellas aren’t excluded from it either. While it’s traditionally been known as a women’s disease, both sexes are susceptible to its challenges.

Wait…Pee How Many Times?

If you’ve read some of our previous content, then you know that it’s normal to pee about 6 to 8 times per day. To some, that may sound like a lot. Who has time to set aside peeing 6 to 8 times a day? But, consider yourself lucky. Someone with interstitial cystitis could pee up 40 to 60 times per day.

Who knew that was even possible? But here’s the thing with interstitial cystitis: the signals in the bladder are a little mixed up.

Individuals with interstitial cystitis will feel the urge to go with even the smallest amount of urine in their bladder. When it’s functioning correctly, the bladder will send a signal to the brain saying “hey, it’s time to go, buddy” once it’s getting full. But with interstitial cystitis, the signal sends an alert at the drop of a hat, which has a huge impact on one’s quality of life.

Signs and Symptoms

Outside of running to the bathroom like a horse in a Kentucky Derby, interstitial cystitis often brings with it other symptoms as well. However, what makes the condition complicated to diagnose is how much the symptoms vary from person to person.

While no two cases are the same, these are the most common signs and symptoms:

  • Discomfort and pressure as the bladder fills
  • Relief after urination
  • Pelvic pain (from dull to piercing)
  • Pain felt between the vagina and anus and/or urethra
  • Pain during sex
  • Back pain

Some of these signs and symptoms are similar to those felt during a urinary tract infection, which is why it’s best to head to a doctor just to be sure.

Are There Any Triggers?

The interesting thing about interstitial cystitis is that for some people, there are certain triggers. The signs and symptoms mentioned above might not happen all at once or even have the same intensity all the time, it just depends on the trigger.

The most common triggers are stress, menstruation, sitting for a prolonged period of time, exercise, and doing the do. Let’s not forget that what you consume also has an impact. A cup of Joe, citrus juices, sodas, spicy foods, alcohol, and items that contain artificial sweeteners can trigger interstitial cystitis.

No Cure, So What Can Be Done?

If you’ve gone to the doctor and been diagnosed with this condition, then you’re probably feeling a little frustrated. But cheer up, buttercup, it’s not the end of the world. However, you will have to make some lifestyle changes. Keep in mind that about 50 percent of interstitial cystitis cases go away on their own, so stay optimistic. Here’s what you can do:

  • Cut out foods and beverages that irritate the bladder
  • Get hip to bladder training
  • Stress is a mess, so find ways to eliminate it
  • Tight clothing is a no go!
  • Smoke? Try to stop
  • Want to exercise? Take it easy for a while with low impact workouts.

When lifestyle changes aren’t enough to help with interstitial cystitis, then sometimes physical therapy can help. Medication may also be prescribed, with the most common ones being:

  • Hydroxyzine – An antihistamine for those that have to pee the most at night.
  • Pentosan (Elmiron) –  This rebuilds the bladder tissue lining but it may take a few months before seeing results
  • Amitriptyline – Controls bladder spasms.

If the above still isn’t doing the trick, then here are some other treatment options a doctor may suggest:

And of course, while you’re trying to manage your bladder, it’s okay to use bladder leak pads. If you’re going to the bathroom up to time 60 times per day, then you’re bound to experience a leak or two. Ain’t no shame in being a step ahead of the game.

From Whoa to Oh!

Now that you know a little more about interstitial cystitis, do you feel relieved? There are millions out there who have it, with most starting to experience issues in their 40s.

What was your “whoa to oh” moment? Did you learn something new? Tell us in the comments. Lily Bird has you covered with pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas, delivered right to your door. Start your free trial today.

By Jessica Thomas, MPH