Our skilled urologists offer comprehensive, compassionate treatment and personalized solutions for urological conditions.
What is interstitial cystitis?
Your bladder stores all of your urine before you use the restroom. Usually, when your bladder gets full, nerves near your bladder send signals to your brain to tell you that you need to urinate.
However, if the nerves signal your brain at the wrong times—such as when your bladder is not full—you may have a condition called interstitial cystitis. Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition, meaning it doesn't go away. However, treatments can be used to ease symptoms. Doctors don't know what causes interstitial cystitis.
What are the symptoms of interstitial cystitis?
Symptoms of interstitial cystitis can resemble symptoms of urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence or an enlarged prostate. The most common symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- Needing to urinate urgently
- Pain during sex
- Pain, pressure, tenderness or discomfort around your bladder, pelvis, penis, vagina or scrotum
Because of its symptoms, interstitial cystitis is also sometimes called painful bladder syndrome.
Women with interstitial cystitis sometimes have worse symptoms around the time of their periods. Certain foods, such as alcoholic beverages, caffeinated drinks, spicy foods or acidic foods can make symptoms worse, too.
Diagnosis and testing for interstitial cystitis
Your doctor will first make sure that you don;t have other conditions. You may have a urine test to check for infections or a cystoscopy to examine your bladder. During a cystoscopy, the doctor inserts a thin tube with a camera on the end into your bladder to look for damage.
Interstitial cystitis treatment options
While there's not currently a cure for interstitial cystitis, your doctor can help you find treatments to ease your symptoms. Treatment options include:
- Physical therapy – Physical therapists can help you with bladder training exercises to help you reduce pain and lengthen how long you can go between trips to the bathroom.
- Medicine – Some medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and certain antidepressants can relieve your pain. Antihistamines can make you feel like you have to go to the bathroom less often.
- Nerve stimulation – This treatment can disrupt the nerve signals that cause pain and make you feel like you need to urinate. Electrical wires placed in your lower back during a surgery send electrical pulses through the nerves near your bladder. For some patients, nerve stimulation helps relieve or reduce interstitial cystitis symptoms.
- Bladder enlargement – Sometimes stretching your bladder to be bigger can also help relieve symptoms. Your doctor can put gas or water into your bladder through a tube. You may feel relief from symptoms for a while and then have your bladder stretched again if this technique works for you.