If you are one of the more than 1 million women in the U.S. currently suffering from a painful condition called interstitial cystitis (IC), you may feel that relief is simply beyond your reach. Chronic discomfort and urinary urgency may dictate your daily activities and limit your goals. Often mistaken for other urinary and pelvic pain issues, finding an effective interstitial cystitis treatment can be difficult, but there are solutions available that really do work.
At Comprehensive Urology in Los Angeles, our urology specialists are skilled at not only diagnosing and treating female urological issues, we take a holistic approach to ensuring total health and happiness, no matter what urological condition a patient may have. We believe that women suffering from interstitial cystitis deserve the comprehensive care they need to live their lives fully, free of pelvic pain or discomfort.
What is Interstitial Cystitis?
IC is a chronic neuro-inflammatory disorder that affects the bladder, urinary tract, and immune system. While men and women can be afflicted with the disorder, it most commonly occurs in women. IC shares many of the same symptoms with other pelvic or urinary conditions, such as urinary incontinence or bladder infections, but the main diagnostic criteria (which can be different among patients) include:
- Urinary urgency
- Urinary frequency
- Small bladder capacity
- Bladder and lower pelvic pain
- Hunner’s ulcers (patches of inflammation on the bladder wall on cystoscopy)
The symptoms of IC can vary widely among patients, which is why it can be so difficult to diagnose. In more severe cases, patients may experience hard bladders as scarring from frequent inflammation and ulcers makes the tissue stiff and painful. As such, the cause of interstitial cystitis is still unknown, but researchers suggest that interstitial cystitis may develop as a result of certain irritants in the urine, previous bladder trauma, mast cell activation (where substances are released such as histamine), as well as hormone fluctuations. These events are ultimately thought to result in the loss of the surface barrier in the bladder against irritants (urine and other chemicals) resulting in more inflammation and scarring.
For more information about interstitial cystitis, visit WebMD.com.
Exploring Treatment Options
Since interstitial cystitis can have such a wide range of symptoms, there is no one treatment that works for every single patient. Depending on the patient and the symptoms, interstitial cystitis treatments usually take a combination approach in order to relieve urinary urgency, bladder pain, or urinary frequency. A trial and error approach is often needed to find out the best combination of interstitial cystitis treatments for each patient. The IC treatment combinations may include:
Interstitial Cystitis Medications
Many patients are fortunate to find relief with the help of pain relievers and other medicines, such as:
- Over-the-counter pain medication
- Topical pain relievers
- Narcotic pain medications
- Anti-depressant medications
- Non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Pentosan (Elmiron ®)
- Bladder instillations (medication solutions administered in the bladder)
Lifestyle Modification and Physical Therapy for Interstitial Cystitis
Certain lifestyle, diet, or behavioral factors may contribute to the painful symptoms of interstitial cystitis, and therefore, making adjustments can help relieve discomfort or pelvic pain. Coffee, other caffeinated drinks, potassium-rich foods, and acidic foods can worsen the irritation in the bladder and lead to frequent urination and exacerbated IC symptoms. Many patients in Los Angeles are able to successfully manage interstitial cystitis by modifying their diets and avoiding certain foods or ingredients that trigger their symptoms.
Additionally, some patients are able to “retrain” their bladders to increase the time between having to empty their bladders. By regulating when to drink liquids and when to avoid them, patients can effectively train their bladders to hold more liquid for longer periods of time.
Lastly, tight or weak pelvic muscles can contribute to interstitial cystitis and trigger spasms of pelvic pain. Physical therapy has been known to provide much-needed relief by stretching and strengthening the muscles that cramp around the bladder.
Neuromodulation for Interstitial Cystitis
Electrical nerve stimulators can be used to relieve pain in the lower back, pelvis, and bladder. The devices work by internally or externally stimulating the nerves that connect to the source of the pain. Stimulating these nerves can help relieve pelvic pain and tension, at least temporarily.
Treatment for Interstitial Cystitis
In many cases, treating the painful symptoms of IC can be enough to allow a patient to continue living life as comfortably and normally as possible.
In some patients cystoscopy and hydrodistention (looking in the bladder under sedation or anesthesia with a scope and expanding it with liquid) provides not only diagnostic clues but also improves symptoms for a period of time.
Another option that has recently become available is sacral nerve stimulation (Interstim®) which involves planting small leads in the back to modulate the sacral nerves with electric currents.
In severe cases, surgery, such as removing the bladder (cystectomy) may be recommended as the last resort option.
In order to have the best chance of successfully overcoming IC and pelvic pain, it is crucial for patients to work with a dedicated and highly skilled urologist who will take the time to create a personalized treatment plan. There can be a lot of trial and error involved in determining the most effective treatments, which is why Dr. Kia Michel and his team are so highly sought after. Each patient undergoes interstitial cystitis treatment based on their unique needs and goals with care and compassion.
Contact a Skilled Urologist in Los Angeles
At the Institute for Incontinence and Vaginal Reconstruction in LA, our urological specialists recognize the benefits of a whole-person approach when treating female incontinence. Using a combination of traditional Western medicine and holistic Eastern methods, our physicians provide a comprehensive care plan to give our patients effective relief from pelvic pain and discomfort. If you are interested in learning more about interstitial cystitis and potential treatment options that may work for you or a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact us at 310.307.3552 today.
In a nutshell:
- What is it?: Interstitial cystitis is a chronic and usually painful condition that affects females more than males and can have widely different presentations in different patients. It is thought to ultimately result from inflammation of the bladder wall due to loss of surface barriers allowing urine and other irritants to affect the bladder. Some symptoms may include urinary frequency and the severe urge to void, burning or pain on urination, small bladder capacity, pain or discomfort in the bladder and pelvis region, etc.
- Diagnosis: Usually IC is a diagnosis of exclusion (of other causes that can have the same symptoms) and is done by your urologist after a full evaluation.
- Interstitial Cystitis Treatment: Due to the complexity of symptoms and different presentations among patients, interstitial cystitis treatment has to be tailored and often involves multiple modalities. Options include lifestyle modification and diets (avoidance of certain foods e.g. acidic or potassium-rich foods), medications (anti-inflammatories, pentosan, anti-histamines, etc), surgical procedures (cystscopy, bladder distention, sacral nerve stimulator, etc).
- IC can have a significant negative impact on quality of life and a thorough approach tailored to each patient by your urologist is the key to finding relief from pelvic pain and taking control of your life again.