Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is a long-term (chronic) inflammation of the bladder wall. More commonly referred to as IC, the chronic inflammation of the bladder wall produces symptoms similar to a Urinary Tract Infection, namely urinary urgency, frequency, nocturia (or frequent nighttime urination), a feeling of burning with urination and pelvic pain. While the symptoms are similar to those experienced during a UTI, there is, in fact, NO bacterial infection present. Additionally, the average person with IC may likely be treated for “urinary infections” for 5-6 years before finally being diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis.
While the cause of IC remains unknown, many believe it to be an autoimmune process that damages the protective lining inside the bladder, called the glycosaminoglycan (GAG) layer. The breakdown of this lining allows certain substances in the urine to inflame and irritate the bladder wall. Most of these irritants are found in the patient’s dietary intake. Items such as juices, red meats and other items with a high acid content will cause a patient with IC to experience a “flare,” or an exacerbation of their symptoms.
Could I have Interstitial Cystitis?
If you any of the following symptoms, you should speak to your doctor to determine if IC could be affecting you:
- An urgent or painful need to void
- Urinary frequency, sometime urinating every 20-30 minutes
- Pain with sex or exercise
- Waking up several times during the night in order to urinate
- Blood in the urine (either visible or determined by urinalysis)
- Feeling like a urinary tract infection (UTI) is present
- Dysuria or painful burning during urination
- An increase in bladder or pelvic pain as the bladder fills
- A partial relief of pain after bladder emptying
A questionnaire, known as the PUF Questionnaire, has been developed to assess your risk of having IC. The questionnaire can be printed, filled out, and brought to your visit. It may prove useful in assisting us in diagnosing the problem.
What can be done if I have IC?
Our providers have ample experience in diagnosing and treating individuals with Interstitial Cystitis. If you think you may have IC, talk with our providers today about ways to relieve your pain. They may decide to perform a test on your bladder to determine if IC is present. While there are tests available in the office setting called Potassium Sensitization tests, we choose not to employ these as they can be extremely painful and, even if the results are positive, may not yield a definitive diagnosis of IC. The only way to truly diagnose IC is to see it. A cystoscopy with hydrodistension may be performed in order to diagnose the problem. Bloody patches (petechial hemorrhages/glomerulations) are seen in the bladder wall in the vast majority of those with IC. While the cystoscopy does require a trip to the operating room, it is not only useful in diagnosing IC but is routinely used for symptomatic control of the disease, many times offering prolonged relief.
In addition, dietary modification and certain medications are available to help decrease irritation and repair the damaged bladder wall.