Interstitial cystitis, or bladder pain syndrome, affects about 8 million women in the United States. This uncomfortable condition causes chronic feelings of pressure or pain in the bladder. But the symptoms may not be obvious at first, causing many women to wait to see their practitioner.
At Alpenglow Gynecology in Littleton, Colorado, Rickie Guida, WHNP-BC, and our team offer a comprehensive line of women’s health services. Rickie also understands that knowing what to look for when it comes to a problematic condition can make diagnosis and treatment easier.
To that end, we’ve put our heads together to provide you with more information about interstitial cystitis, the signs you may have it, and how the condition is treated. Keep reading to learn what you need to know.
Understanding interstitial cystitis
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a bladder condition that causes chronic pain and discomfort. Researchers have found that most people with IC have one of two types: ulcerative and non-ulcerative IC.
Ulcerative IC makes up only 5-10% of cases and involves bleeding ulcers on the bladder wall. Non-ulcerative IC is diagnosed in 90% of patients. With this type of IC, you don’t have ulcers but tiny hemorrhages, called glomerulations, in the wall of the bladder.
Researchers still haven’t identified an exact cause of IC, but they have found different factors that may contribute to the condition. Scientists believe one or more triggering events may cause some initial damage to the bladder, which then leads to IC.
Some of the possible triggers of IC include:
- Bladder trauma
- Bladder overdistention (long periods without access to a toilet)
- Dysfunctional pelvic floor muscles
- Autoimmune disorder
- Bacterial infection (cystitis)
- Inflammation or hypersensitivity of pelvic nerves (primary neurogenic inflammation)
- Spinal cord trauma
Medical researchers think these initial triggers cause damage that allows particles in the urine to enter the lining of the bladder, triggering inflammation, further damage, and chronic pain.
Five signs of interstitial cystitis
Unlike acute bladder infections, which cause noticeable and painful symptoms right away, IC typically begins with very mild symptoms, like pain with sexual activity. This can lead to a misdiagnosis, usually for a urinary tract infection.
In addition to general pain and feeling of pressure in the bladder area, here are five of the most common signs of interstitial cystitis:
- Frequent urination — more than 7 times in one day
- Strong urge to urinate when you have to go
- Feeling like your bladder never fully empties
- Having difficulty urination
- Pain during or after sex and during urination
The pressure you experience with IC may also make it uncomfortable to wear pants that fasten or zip in front of the bladder.
Diagnosing and treating interstitial cystitis
To treat IC, your provider must first accurately diagnose the condition. IC shares many symptoms with other urinary, bladder, and vaginal conditions, so Rickie may order a urine test, cystoscopy, or potassium sensitivity test in addition to reviewing your symptoms, medical history, and a pelvic exam.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple treatment for IC. Patients with IC usually follow several treatment options to help manage the condition. These may include:
- Nerve stimulation
- Exercises to stretch your bladder
- Physical therapy
- Surgery (in rare cases)
If you’re experiencing any of the signs of interstitial cystitis, don’t wait to schedule an appointment at Alpenglow Gynecology in Littleton, Colorado. You can reach us at 303-797-9199 or book a consultation with Rickie online.