October 2, 2018

Painful, Urgent or Frequent Urination? It Could Be Interstitial Cystitis

By Lee Ann Boyd, Certified Urology Nurse Practitioner

Do you experience frequent, urgent or painful urination? It can be hard to tell if your bladder is simply active, overactive or if it might be inflamed. It could be interstitial cystitis.

What is interstitial cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder that is characterized by urinary frequency, urgency, painful urination and/or pelvic pain. The cause of the condition is not well understood, but it is thought that patients with IC have defects in the lining of the bladder that allow irritants to inflame the bladder lining producing nerve pain. Common irritants include spicy or acidic foods and fluids, caffeine and alcohol; sexual activity may often aggravate the condition.

How is IC diagnosed?

Before diagnosing IC, other conditions often have to be ruled out first. This can be frustrating when someone has had symptoms for quite some time and may have seen multiple healthcare providers for their discomfort or concerns. A careful history, physical examination and a cystoscopic examination, which includes looking in the bladder with a small camera placed in the urethra, with possible tissue samples taken may aid in the diagnosis.

How is IC treated?

  • Avoiding dietary items that are known to irritate the bladder is essential, as is drinking enough fluids.
  • Physical therapy for pelvic floor dysfunction may help alleviate pain from IC. A variety of techniques may be used such as biofeedback, electrical stimulation and trigger-point therapy.
  • There are medications that may calm the bladder such as antidepressants and antihistamines, which may be given by mouth, as well as bladder treatments that are administered via a catheter. Elmiron is an oral medication approved by the FDA for IC, which can be very effective for many patients, however, it may take 3-6 months to see a benefit from this medication.
  • Although not FDA approved for IC, Botox needle injections in the bladder may be helpful for chronic nerve pain and spasticity of the bladder.

Patients diagnosed with IC take an active role in their plan of care and self-help measures often go hand in hand with medical treatments. Retraining your bladder, managing your bowel movements, modifying your diet, practicing stress reduction techniques and getting adequate sleep have all been shown to be beneficial for many patients who experience urgent, frequent or painful urination.

Your healthcare provider can assist in formulating a plan that may assist you in gaining relief of IC symptoms. Although there is no known cure for IC, this condition can be managed with the goal of reducing pain, and urinary urgency and frequency.

Lee Ann Boyd, MSN, ARNP, is a certified Urology Nurse Practitioner at Mission Urology.

To learn more, visit missionhealth.org/urology or call Mission Urology at 828-254-8883.