Have you been certain that you’ve had a urinary tract infection (UTI) only to go to the doctor and be told, “Your labs look good, no infection here!”
Then what could be causing this excruciating pain that keeps you from being no more than ten feet from the nearest toilet at all times?
It could be interstitial cystitis (IC).
IC, which is also known as Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS) is a bladder condition that causes pain or discomfort in the bladder and pelvic region, as well as urinary symptoms such a painful urination, urinary urgency and urinary frequency.
IC is more common than you might think, with estimates that it can affect up to 12 million people in the United States. It can affect both males and females, but is more common in women. IC largely goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed, so spreading awareness and reducing time to diagnosis is crucial in improving quality of life for people living with this condition.
A diagnosis of IC/PBS is made out of exclusion, meaning your doctor will check for active infection and other causes that could account for your symptoms, but if no other cause is found and your symptoms align with IC, you may receive a diagnosis of IC.
The three main symptoms of IC are urinary frequency, urinary urgency and pain. Pain may be felt in the lower abdomen, bladder or urethra. Females may experience pain around the vaginal area and males may experience pain around the testes, scrotum or perineum. It is common to experience painful sexual intercourse as well.
For some people, IC may be the only symptoms they experience, but for many people, it is associated with other conditions. These conditions include: allergies, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, pelvic floor dysfunction, central sensitization, and chronic fatigue syndrome, among others.
In my practice, I often see people who have symptoms of IC that also have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). Mast cells are found in high concentrations in the bladder lining, so it makes sense that over activation of these immune cells can trigger hypersensitivity and pain. Often, treating MCAS will greatly improve IC symptoms.
Treatment of IC is not always straight forward and simple, but it is possible and more accessible than you might think! Although it would feel much more simple to take a quick acting drug to settle an IC flare, the solution is a more holistic approach that includes pelvic floor physical therapy, modifying diet to reduce triggers, regulating the autonomic nervous system and addressing any underlying triggers such as chronic infection or mold.
Living with IC can be extremely debilitating. The pain and urinary symptoms can make it difficult to partake in your normal daily activities and the symptoms often greatly disrupt your sleep at night. Although IC is a chronic condition, it is possible to gain full remission and live symptom free. There is so much we can do to help you find hope and live a full life, free of bladder symptoms.
Let’s not let IC run your life.
Reach out if you are interested in learning more about our holistic treatment approach for IC!