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Interstitial Cystitis

Also referred to as bladder pain syndrome, interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic, long-lasting condition that causes painful urinary symptoms. It is defined as pain, pressure, or discomfort in the suprapubic or bladder area, which can cause urinary frequency or the abnormal urgency to urinate and with smaller volumes of urine.

Men, women, and children can develop IC at any point during their life, with the condition mostly affecting women.

Interstitial Cystitis Symptoms

Interstitial cystitis may share some of the same symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) with the difference being there is usually no infection present. However, symptoms may worsen if a person with interstitial cystitis gets a urinary tract infection. Common interstitial cystitis symptoms include:

  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Pain between the vagina and anus in women
  • Pain between the scrotum and anus in men
  • Persistent, urgent need to urinate
  • Frequent urination, often of small amounts throughout the day and night (up to 60 times per day)
  • Pain or discomfort while the bladder fills followed by relief after urinating
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Symptoms severity is different for everyone. Some people may experience symptom-free periods and periodic flare-ups in response to triggers such as menstruation, prolonged periods of sitting, stress, exercise, and sexual activity.

Causes of Interstitial Cystitis

The exact cause of interstitial cystitis is unknown. However, several factors can contribute to the development of this condition, such as:

  • Bladder trauma, such as from pelvic surgery
  • Bladder overdistention
  • Pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Bacterial infection (cystitis)
  • Primary neurogenic inflammation
  • Spinal cord trauma

Interstitial Cystitis Diagnosis

There are no definitive tests to diagnose painful bladder syndrome or interstitial cystitis. Your urologist will perform a comprehensive evaluation, diagnosing by an elimination process, excluding conditions of similar symptoms, such as infections, cancers, and other forms of inflammation.

Tests include a pelvic exam, urine sample and urinalysis, urodynamic evaluation, cystoscopy and bladder biopsy, bladder distension and imaging scans.

Interstitial Cystitis Treatment Options

There is no cure for interstitial cystitis. However, the symptoms can be managed through a series of strategies, individualised to each patient. Treatment options include:

  • Dietary modification
  • Lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress
  • Pelvic floor rehabilitation
  • Bladder retraining
  • Oral medications
  • Injection of botulinum toxin
  • Bladder instillation (where prescription medication is placed into your bladder through a thin, flexible tube (catheter) inserted through the urethra)
  • Bladder stretching/distension (the stretching of the bladder with water)
  • Nerve stimulation (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or sacral nerve stimulation)
  • Surgery (fulguration, resection, or bladder augmentation)

Seek recommendations on suitable treatment options for interstitial cystitis or bladder pain syndrome with Colin Teo Urology. Contact us to book an appointment today.