Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a severe, chronic inflammation of the bladder that's both disruptive and painful. Many more women than men suffer from the condition—of the 700,000 people with IC, 90% are female.
The symptoms of IC are notoriously variable and can differ from one person to another, or for one person from day to day. People with IC usually have an urgent and frequent need to urinate. They may experience recurring discomfort, tenderness, pressure, or intense pain in the bladder and surrounding pelvic area. This pain often intensifies as the bladder fills and may be exacerbated by sexual intercourse.
Certain foods may trigger symptoms; the most commonly mentioned include tomatoes, vinegar, spicy foods, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, and fruits and vegetables particular to the individual.
The cause of IC is unknown. Although its symptoms resemble a bladder infection, IC does not appear to be caused by bacteria. One theory proposes that IC is caused by an infectious agent that simply hasn't been detected yet. A different theory holds that IC is an autoimmune reaction; still another, that it is related to allergies. Because it varies so much in symptoms and severity, IC may be not one disease but several.
A variety of treatments are often tried alone or in combination before one is found that works. Oral antihistamines such as hydroxyzine (Atarax) and certirizine (Zyrtec) may provide relief, and the drowsiness they produce often wears off over time. Other medications used for IC include pentosan polysulfate sodium (Elmiron), pyridium, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Distending the bladder by filling it to capacity with water for 2-8 minutes is frequently useful, but although the beneficial effects may persist for months, symptoms usually return eventually. In some cases, medications such as dimethyl sulfoxide and heparin may be introduced into the bladder with a catheter; actual surgical alteration of the bladder is rarely used to treat IC.
Other Proposed Treatments for Interstitial Cystitis
Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulation
Myofascial Physical Therapy
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -