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Interstitial Cystitis in Women

What You Should Know

What You Can Do About It*

The symptoms of a urinary tract infection can be mimicked by a chronic bladder disorder called interstitial cystitis (IC for short), also known as painful bladder syndrome (PBS). As a matter of fact, more than two-thirds of all IC / PBS sufferers have a history of UTIs.

In this insidious disorder, the urinary bladder is overly sensitive (a “touchy bladder”). The predominant symptom is pain in the pelvic area in form of discomfort, pressure, soreness and tenderness due to a chronic inflammation of the bladder lining.

The pain and urgency can be very extreme and severe, making work, sexual activity, and normal social functioning difficult, or just impossible.

Believed to be an autoimmune condition, interstitial cystitis / painful bladder syndrome may stay about the same or get worse with time. Some women may go into remission for extended periods.

Unlike ordinary bladder infections, the cause or, rather, the causes of IC / PBS continue to baffle medical researchers. It is believed that mysterious, chronic pelvic pain condition may be the result of:

  • vasculitis (blood vessel disease),
  • autoimmune disease (such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disease, Addison’s disease, Graves’ disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, myasthenia gravis, autoimmune vasculitis, pernicious anemia, celiac disease),
  • an acid-alkali imbalance (brought about by environmental factors and diet),
  • presence of abnormal substances in the urine (such as hemoglobin, ketones, protein, urobilinogen),
  • an infection caused by a more elusive strain of bacteria, undetected by standard tests,
  • functional neurological disorder (FND), a complex condition where patients experience physical neurological symptoms, but without a clear structural problem in the nervous system (such as multiple sclerosis or stroke);
  • defective cells in the bladder lining (dysfunctional epithelium),
  • allergic reactions.

Several other disorders that are associated with IC / PBS include:

  • Abdominal (stomach) migraine, similar to migraine headache – a neurological disease characterized by intense episodes of abdominal pain lasting 2 or more hours followed by long periods without symptoms.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a common disorder affecting the large intestine with cramping and abdominal pain;
  • Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) – a long-term condition that causes widespread muscle pain (all over the body);
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) – a complicated disorder characterized by an unexplained extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest);
  • Vulvodynia (pain or burning in the vulvar area, not caused by infection or skin disease).

Although interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome is most common in women, it can also occur in men and children.

IC / PBS Epidemiology

Women outnumber men by as much as eight to one. The current estimate is that 3 to 8 million women suffer from this mysterious and insidious disease. Most women are diagnosed in their early forties.

There is still no evidence that stress causes IC / PBS in the first place. However, it is well-known that if a person has it, physical or mental stress can make the symptoms worse.

Here’s the good news about interstitial cystitis though:

  • It is not contagious.
  • It does not spread in the body and does not seem to worsen with time.
  • It is not a cause of bladder cancer.

For some women, the symptoms improve or disappear during pregnancy. For other women, they get worse. But it does not seem to affect fertility or the health of a fetus.

Medical IC / PBS Diagnosis

As medical experts still do not know what causes IC / PBS, there is no a standard test or technique that can say a person has it. Your doctor can only rule out or treat the other related conditions such as:

  • urinary tract infection / bacterial cystitis (an inflammation of the bladder caused by pathogenic bacteria entering the bladder via the urethra),
  • chronic urethral syndrome, also known as symptomatic abacteriuria with no clear cause; it has many of the same symptoms as urethritis – inflammation or irritation of urethra – such as abdominal pain and frequent, painful urination),
  • overactive bladder (a syndrome with such symptoms as a sudden, uncontrolled need or urge to urinate, urine leakage, and the need to pass urine many times during the day and night),
  • vulvodynia (a chronic pain or discomfort around the opening of your vagina (vulva) lasting for at least three months),
  • vaginal infection (bacterial infection causing a discharge with itching, redness, and sometimes burning and soreness),
  • endometriosis (when the tissue that makes up the uterine lining is present on other organs inside your body causing lower abdominal pain, pain with periods, or pain with sexual intercourse),
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and
  • bladder cancer (with the first being blood in the urine (hematuria) and pain or burning during urination without evidence of urinary tract infection (UTI).

Also, there is no a definitive test to say a person does not have interstitial cystitis.

To make a diagnosis, your physician will have first to decide whether the symptoms are typical of IC / PBS. Next, he or she will need to rule out other health issues, as the ones mentioned above, that might be causing the symptoms.

Some believe that IC / PBS is present if a patient has symptoms and no other cause for those symptoms is found. Others think that more tests are needed to find out whether the patient has IC / PBS.

A number of standard diagnostic tools include:

Urinalysis

A urine sample is studied under a microscope to check for blood or bacteria in the urine which may indicate urinary tract infection, urinary tract stones or other urinary problems.

Urine culture

A urine sample is studied to determine if there are any pathogenic bacteria growing in it. The bacteria are then tested to determine which prescription drugs will most effectively treat them.

Urine cytology

An examination of the cells from the bladder lining that are in the urine.

Cystoscopy

This is the main standard diagnostic tool for interstitial cystitis. The procedure allows the urologist to look directly into the bladder. A thin, flexible tube called a cystoscope is gently inserted into the bladder through the urethra.

Cystoscopy with hydrodistention (the bladder stretch)

In this procedure the bladder is hydrodistended, that is first stretched or filled to a high pressure with fluid. Then, the urologist examines the inside of the bladder for tiny irritated, bleeding hemorrhages – called glomerulations – on the bladder wall.

Glomerulations, also known as petechial hemorrhages, in the bladder are a major symptom of IC / PBS in 95 percent of patients. Their presence suggests that the bladder wall has been damaged, irritated and/or inflamed.

It should be notated, however, that glomerulations are associated only with some types of interstitial cystitis.

Standard IC / PBS Treatments

There is no medicinal cure for interstitial cystitis / painful bladder syndrome, but many medical treatments offer some relief, either singly or in combination. Figuring out what works can be hit-or-miss, as there is no way to predict who will respond best to which treatment.

IC / PBS medical treatments, aimed at easing symptoms, may include:

Bladder enlargement (augmentation)

It is an operation to make the bladder larger and increase its capacity. It can also lower the pressure in the bladder (making it more elastic) and interfere with pain signals sent by the nerve cells in the bladder.


The bladder stretch (hydrodistention)

This outpatient, one-day-stay procedure, however, is not only used for the diagnosis, but also for the treatment of interstitial cystitis. In most cases, it is done with general anaesthesia, as local anaesthesia is very uncomfortable for patients with a very painful bladder condition.


Most women (80 percent), however, experience worsening of the pain afterwards, especially upon waking up. For the pain to go slowly away, it usually takes 2-3 weeks.


Also, in a few days following the procedure, there is a risk of developing a urinary tract infection. A urine test then is done, and possibly a course of antibiotics administered immediately.


If the IC / PBS symptoms return after the initial hydrodistention the procedure can be repeated, as some women show improvement only after the 2nd or 3rd treatment. Hypothetically, the bladder stretch helps relieve the IC symptoms by damaging the oversensitive nerve endings in the bladder lining.


Bladder wash (instillation)

It delivers medication to the bladder with a solution that is held in the bladder for a short period of time (from a few seconds to 15 minutes), then drained with a catheter.


Prescription Medicines

There are many different drugs that may be used (taken by mouth or put right into the bladder). It should be noted, however, that antibiotics are ineffective.


Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

Mild electric pulses enter the body for minutes to hours. This is done 2 or more times a day. The pulses are sent through wires placed on the lower back. Or through special devices put into the vagina. For some people, TENS eases bladder pain and urinary frequency and urgency.


Sacral neuromodulation (delivered via the InterStim™ system)

It is a treatment option for bladder control. An implant electrically stimulate the sacral nerve which is thought to normalize neural communication between the bladder and brain. This treatment, however, may be effective in addressing the frequency associated with interstitial cystitis / painful bladder syndrome, but not the relief of pain.


Bladder training

Urinating at certain times and using relaxation methods and distractions to help keep to schedule. And trying, over time, to lengthen the time between the scheduled urinations.


Physical therapy

It may be used in select cases, especially for treatment of associated pelvic floor muscle spasm.


Surgery (cystectomy) with urinary diversion (the last resort)

In severe cases, removal of the bladder, or part of the bladder, if other treatments do not work. A treatment of last resort.

Standard Lifestyle Recommendations

When you have been diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, you will first be offered the ways in which you can help yourself, like lifestyle changes.

Some doctors agree that she IC symptoms can be managed with:

Changing diet

Without any doubt, diet plays an important role in keeping IC /PBS under control. Certain products including, but not limited to, coffee, alcoholic beverages, citrus fruits, tomatoes, carbonated drinks, and spicy food have been associated with exacerbation of symptoms. A trial of elimination of such foods and beverages, especially acidic, may be worthwhile.


Not smoking

As nicotine irritates the bladder, smoking cessation can help to reduce the symptoms.


Exercising

Exercise may help ease symptoms or make them stop for a while. It can also speed remission.


Reducing stress

There is no proof that stress causes IC / PBS. But if a person has it, stress can make the symptoms worse.


Taking nutritional supplements

There are many supplements available – over-the-counter (OTC) or in health food stores, such as chondroitin sulfate and quercetin. They may help reverse the damage done to the urothelium, which normally acts as a barrier against insults to the urinary bladder.

*Based on various available sources and studies, our research and practical experience. Last modified on November 19, 2019.

Natural Alternative Measures

Contrary to a popular belief and common medical practice, people with interstitial cystitis do benefit from specialty herbal dietary supplements.

With their help it is possible not only to bring the relief of pain, but also to heal the damaged, irritated and/or inflamed bladder wall by:

  • improving and in many case restoring the quality and functioning of the uroepithelium, or urothelium – an epithelial tissue that lines the entire urinary tract acting as a barrier against all kind of insults to the bladder,
  • disinfecting the entire urinary tract, therefore,
  • inhibiting and preventing inflammation.

Compared to standard medical treatments, the natural, non-pharmacological approach to IC /PBS is clearly a superior option – much more effective, much safer and without side effects.

It is our working experience that interstitial cystitis can be successfully controlled and most importantly prevented with the help of some natural formulations.

Therefore, you or someone you know, or hold dear, who suffers from IC / PBS should give this approach serious consideration.

As far as our line of naturopathic dietary supplements is concerned, many women suffering from interstitial cystitis have gotten great results after using our Uribiotic Formula known to its ability not only to heal the bladder lining, but also the entire urinary tract.

This unique multi-herbal formula has been proven to be able to:

  • restore and/or preserve the integrity and normal function of urothelial cells and the connective tissue surrounding the urothelium; therefore,
  • reduce and/or eliminate the inflammation and pain, or hold them in check.

Also, depending on the severity of symptoms, other dietary supplements can be taken along with Uribiotic Formula:

Women with IC Write to Us

(Real-Life Stories & Testimonials)

Feel normal again…

I have been diagnosed with interstitial cystitis. And over the past two years, I have taken so many antibiotics* for that. On my last visit to my urologist, after having a cystoscopy, he recommended that I should try D-Mannose to help me get away from antibiotics. I was using it but still had a couple of full-blown UTIs.

After a huge amount of research to help my recurring UTIs, I came upon your webpage. Since then I have not looked back.

I have only been taking the Uribiotic Formula, d-Mannose MAX and Oregano Oil for approximately two weeks now, feeling great, back to a normal healthy relationship with my husband.

I showed these products to my Naturopath who is very interested as there is nothing close to that in Australia. With my great results, she is going to forward your webpage to her patients.

Well done and thank you for helping me to feel normal again. And if I can help others here with my testimony I will be more than happy to recommend your Uribiotic.

I will be very happy to order again as I am going to take these products as an ongoing prevention, not just to treat when I get a UTI, to continue good health.

Kind regards,

Kathy A.

Australia

*OUR COMMENTS

Although there are many different drugs used medicinally, antibiotics are known to be ineffective IC.

Helps my IC tremendously…

I have had interstitial cystitis (IC) for eight years. A couple of months ago, I had a bladder infection and wanted to find a natural antibiotic for bladder infections.

After doing thorough research on natural antibiotics, I decided to try Uribiotic Formula. When I started I felt comfort within 24 hours.

After using Uribiotic for a month, knowing my symptoms were gone, I stopped taking it.

Within a couple of weeks, I again felt discomfort. I then realized that Uribiotic was helping my IC.

I am now taking it on a daily basis: two capsules (and good probiotics) in the morning and in the evening. This is helping my IC tremendously.

Thank you for a great product!

Feeling normal,

Cindee

Seattle, Washington, USA

How Do I Know if I Have One?

(Symptoms Questionnaire)

The symptoms of interstitial cystitis / painful bladder syndrome vary from person to person. And at different times you may have different symptoms. Sometimes, they go away by themselves – but may return unexpectedly.

At times, the symptoms may resemble those of a chronic urinary tract infection, but there is usually no infection in interstitial cystitis. However, when you do have IC / PBS, the symptoms may worsen if you get a UTI.

Think you might have an IC / PBS

and/or interested in getting a second opinion?

Please fill in the two-part questionnaire below, answering all questions thoughtfully and to the best of your knowledge. By doing so, you will be much better prepared for an eventual doctor’s appointment. It might also help your doctor determine if you need further testing or treatment, which is not always a routine practice.

As for the symptoms, they are sensations or perceptions of changes in health experienced by yourself or someone you know, or hold dear who too may be in need for help.

Within 12 to 24 hours, we will email you back the results along with our brief recommendations (if necessary) that may help you get your urinary health back on track. The information given, however, is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or replace the advice of a doctor or other healthcare professional.*

*Confidentiality Assurance

As privacy is one of the most important issues for all of us on the Internet, please rest assured that all your answers in this questionnaire are strictly confidential. We do not share any part of the completed questionnaire with anyone. Also, your email address is safe with us. We will never rent, sell, or exchange your contact information with anyone.

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