What is Interstitial Cystitis ?

What is Interstitial Cystitis ?

What is interstitial cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a painful bladder condition that affects up to 12 million people in the US. IC has signs and symptoms that mimic those of a UTI. Simply put, it is inflammation of the bladder lining that causes pain and pressure with no sign of infection or bacteria.

Is IC the same as Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS) ?

The term ‘IC’ has been used as an umbrella term for other painful bladder conditions such as ‘painful bladder syndrome’ (PBS). The condition has also been referred to as urologic chronic pelvic pain syndromes (UCPPS)

What are the symptoms of IC?

People with IC may experience:

  • intense pelvic pain

  • strong urgency to urinate

  • frequency to urinate

  • burning and discomfort in the bladder

  • Some women may also experience pain during sexual intercourse

Is IC painful?

Yes, IC is when the bladder lining becomes irritated and inflamed. The bladder pain can range from a dull ache to piercing pain. Urinating may feel like just a little sting, or it can feel like intense burning. IC flares can be extremely painful and the duration is different for everyone, a flare could last a few hours or a few days and can often develop into a UTI. 

Does a cystoscopy help to identify IC

During this procedure a long, thin tube (cystoscope) is used. It has a lens and a light on one end. This tube helps your healthcare provider see inside your bladder. During a cystoscopy a urologist is able to see inflammation or Hunners ulcers in the lower part of the bladder lining. They can also rule out bladder cancer. 

Are UTI's and IC related?

A study found that 74% of females diagnosed wth IC had previously been diagnosed with recurrent UTIs.

It is hard to differentiate the symptoms of UTI and IC, many patients experience both conditions and often need to do regular urine testing to check for bacteria. Some people describe IC as a 'fake UTI'

Can you have IC from childhood?

IC is different for everyone, some people have had IC from childhood and some develop it after many years of recurring UTIs. Often people with IC can often have other conditions such as IBS, fibromyalgia, recurring UTIs and other autoimmune disorders. It appears to be very under-researched with no identified cause and no known cure.

Is IC the same as chronic UTI?

New research suggests that some patients who have been diagnosed with ‘IC’ could actually have a chronic/ embedded UTI where bacteria is hiding in the bladder lining undetected.

Diagnostics and testing for IC

There is unfortunately no simple single test that diagnoses IC. IC is essentially a diagnosis of symptoms and exclusions – meaning that the patient does not have other conditions such as UTI, bladder cancer, bladder stones, prostatitis (for men), overactive bladder or kidney stones.

Testing includes:

  • urine testing

  • CT/IVP scan

  • bladder ultra sound

  • blood test to rule out STIs

  • cystoscope and urodynamic evaluation.

IC is difficult to diagnosed and has no clear cause. If there is no bacteria or infection detected in your urine culture results and antibiotic treatment doesn’t work, then you could be diagnosed with IC.

Can a bladder distention cure IC?

Doctors often recommend bladder distention as assessment and treatment for IC and this is done at the same time as a cystoscopy when you are under general aesthetic. However many patients decline this because the recovery can extremely painful and the relief may only last a few weeks/months. 

Bladder distention is a procedure where a physician stretches the bladder using water. This procedure is used as an assessment and treatment for patients who suffer from symptoms of a hypersensitive bladder, such as the urgent and frequent desire to pass urine and bladder pain.

Bladder distension has shown some success in reducing urinary frequency and giving pain relief to patients. Sometimes, the relief achieved by bladder distension is only temporary.

How can I manage IC?

  • If you have gut issues, consult a nutritionist to find out if your diet is affecting your bladder health.

  • Book in to see a physiotherapist to check your pelvic floor is functioning as it should be

  • Book in to see a therapist to keep your mental health in check.

  • There are so many natural therapies you can do to manage chronic pain and anxiety including yoga, acupuncture, reiki healing, kinesiology. For more natural therapies visit:

What are some tips for living with IC?

  • Stay hydrated. When you sleep your body becomes dehydrated, drink plenty of water first thing in the morning. Some people wake up with IC pain when the bladder is empty, so keep sipping throughout the day. Try to drink 2-3L every day.

  • Drink D mannose powder with water before intimacy and empty your bladder 40 mins after. You can also take D mannose daily as a preventative

  • Use coconut oil as a lubricant as it has antimicrobial properties and reliefs friction.

  • Try using unscented soaps or organic body wash. We love Dr Bronners range with hemp oil/ coconut oil.

  • Try natural remendies such as oregano oil daily.

  • Keep in check with your mental health try to avoid stressful situations.

  • Exercise daily, walking and yoga will do you wonders!

What can trigger IC flares?

  • Avoid having too much sugar, carbs, acidic or spicy food or caffeinated drinks.

  • Avoid using tampons or condoms with spermicides.

  • Don’t over wash your private area as you may throw the good bacteria out of balance.

  • Don't shock your bladder with lots of alcohol. Drink a glass of water before each alcoholic beverage.

  • Avoid soaking in Epson salt baths and if you swim in chlorine pools, shower straight after.

  • Avoid tight clothing and wear comfortable and breathable underwear

  • Stress and anxiety can trigger IC flares.

Does water matter?

Yes. Staying hydrated with pure, clean water not only quenches our thirst, but promotes vitality from the inside out! Many public water sources contain contaminants such as fluoride, mercury, aluminium, algae, bacteria, pesticides, and fungi. If you have IC you may have a sensitive bladder and might consider drinking bottled spring water or filtered water.

IC diet tips

IC affects everyone differently, but certain foods are likely to trigger a flare. Try to work out what foods are best for you by using the elimination diet and keeping a food diary. Here are some suggestions which may help you:

  • Eat more leafy greens, vegetables and fresh fruits

  • Avoid citrus fruits (oranges, tomatoes)

  • Try to include a probiotic and collagen in your daily regimen

  • Drink green juice smoothies

  • Low gluten, low dairy, low sugar and low processed foods

  • Super greens (spirulina, wheatgrass, seaweed)

  • Yams, yoghurt, kefir

  • Vitamins D and K2

More information

Further research and information is available at the below links.

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