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Interstitial Cystitis: All Hands on Deck

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Interstitial Cystitis: All Hands on Deck

Every medical condition has the potential to affect a person’s quality of life, which is why the “all-hands-on-deck” approach is ideal. Urologic symptoms should be taken seriously whether they are temporary, recurrent, or chronic. In some instances, including cases of interstitial cystitis, the need for teamwork becomes even more critical.

Interstitial cystitis is a condition that has been relatively confusing for patients and scientists alike. Research has yet to determine the exact reason some women (and even some men) develop what we call painful bladder syndrome. One theory is that the epithelial lining of the bladder is compromised in those with interstitial cystitis and, because of this, irritants are felt more intensely. Whatever the cause, it is the management of interstitial cystitis that often needs immediate attention. To find the best approach, patients and doctors must work together.

What Interstitial Cystitis May Feel Like

The first step in getting appropriate help for interstitial cystitis is to recognize symptoms. These include:

  • Frequent urination, up to dozens of times a day
  • A sense of urinary urgency, followed by low urine output
  • Pelvic pain that occurs or increases when the bladder fills
  • Painful intercourse or pelvic pain after intercourse
  • Pain in the tissue between the anus and the vulva (or scrotum)

This list of symptoms may look very much like those that would occur with a urinary tract infection. Because of this, interstitial cystitis may be misdiagnosed. Due to the potential for misdiagnosis, it is vital that patients with recurring symptoms become their own best advocate.

Here’s what experts suggest:

Become informed.

An informed patient is the best kind of patient, especially when a condition like interstitial cystitis has developed. The American Urological Association seems to agree, stating that “no single (interstitial cystitis) treatment has been found effective for the majority of patients.” What this association has suggested is that most patients will obtain the greatest sense of relief from symptoms by incorporating multiple strategies into their life.

We will be the first to agree that formal medicine does not have all the answers about interstitial cystitis. Doctors routinely prescribe medications to help manage symptoms. Some pharmaceutical drugs work by minimizing muscle contractions in the bladder to reduce urinary urge and frequency. In severe cases, surgery is sometimes suggested. However, patients may find that certain lifestyle habits such as avoiding acidic foods or caffeine may reduce symptoms. Many have said that staying active with daily walks has helped their symptoms, and pelvic floor physical therapy has also been said to help. What is important is to know that there are strategies that work, it just may take time to find them.

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