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Understanding Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is a continuously present and complicated disorder involving the bladder and usually causing the following:

  • Irritation and inflammation of the wall.
  • Scar tissue formation.
  • Fibrosis.
  • Reduced bladder capacity due to reduced elasticity.
  • Micro-bleeding points (glomerulation).

Other names for Interstitial Cystitis are Painful Bladder Syndrome and Frequency-Urgency-Dysuria Syndrome.

Causes of Interstitial Cystitis

The cause is not well understood. When antibiotics are used, there is no response. Studies suggest that certain foods increase the symptoms of IC in susceptible persons. Some of these foods include:

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
  • Carbonated drinks such as sodas.
  • Spiced foods.
  • Chocolate.
  • Bananas and other potassium-rich foods.

Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis

There might be variations by patients but common symptoms include the following:

  • Urgency to pass small urine amounts more frequently.
  • Pain and pressure sensation on the lower abdomen, pelvis and the perineal area.
  • Difficult sexual relationship due to painful intercourse.
  • Penis and scrotal discomfort and pain.
  • Symptoms exacerbating during menses (menstruation).
  • Symptoms worsening in stressful situations.

Other urinary tract conditions can present with symptoms similar to those of IC. It is advisable to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosing Interstitial Cystitis

There is no definitive way to confirm IC. The tests available are more for ruling out other urinary disorders that can present with similar symptoms. Before any laboratory tests and other diagnostic procedures are done, a detailed history of the illness is taken and followed by a thorough clinical examination including the following:

  • Urine analysis; which may reveal evidence of an underlying problem through presence of pus cells, red blood cells, proteins, or other substances.
  • Urine culture. If any organisms are isolated, a sensitivity test may be done.
  • Urine cytology to reveal the type of cells (if any) present in the urine.

More invasive types of evaluations include:

  • Bladder visualization using a cystoscope to identify any problem in the bladder including tumors and or stones.
  • Bladder wall biopsy where a small bladder wall tissue is removed and examined to see if there is evidence of malignant presence.
  • Prostate secretion laboratory analysis.

Treatment for Interstitial Cystitis

A qualified physician will determine the best treatment for individual patients depending on:

  • Age of the patient.
  • Medical history.
  • Overall health status.
  • The severity of the disease.
  • Patient’s ability to withstand specific medicines, procedures or other forms of therapies.
  • The possible trend of the disease.
  • Patient’s will and likes.

Since there is no specific way of establishing the presence of IC, diagnosis is made by method of elimination. Treatment efforts are palliative and aimed at relieving symptoms:

  • Bladder distension aimed at increasing bladder holding capacity.
  • Bladder washouts.
  • Medications to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for the bladder. This is done by either stimulating specific nerves in the lower back or by transvaginal or per rectal devices.
  • Bladder training which involves making conscious and mental efforts to extend the periods between micturition (desire to urinate).
  • Surgical intervention.

Other Interstitial Cystitis management measures can include:

  • Diet modification. Although certain foods are suspect, a person can make a food list and gradually test which ones worsen IC symptoms. The list may include citrus fruits, tomatoes, spices, chocolate and caffeinated and carbonated drinks.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Becoming physically more active.

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