Interstitial Cystitis (IC), also referred to as Bladder Pain Syndrome (BPS), is a common urological ailment that triggers discomfort in the pelvis region, along with increased pressure in the bladder. The bladder is a triangle-shaped hollow muscular organ situated in the lower abdomen and is held in place by ligaments connected to the pelvic bones. Its key function is to store urine and once it becomes full, the bladder relays the message to the brain via the pelvic nerve, which then prompts the urge to urinate, thereby emptying the bladder. However, in instances of interstitial cystitis, the affected individual feels the tendency to pass urine very often despite the fact that the bladder is not full and it is a chronic condition that has no cure. Nevertheless, IC is a widely prevalent bladder issue that can be managed with medications, assisted therapies and surgery.
Causes Of Interstitial Cystitis:
Doctors and medical researchers are yet to determine the precise cause of interstitial cystitis. However, it is generally considered to be triggered by structural defects in the bladder, wherein the epithelium or the protective lining is damaged. Besides this, numerous other attributes prompt bladder pain syndrome/BPS, including autoimmune conditions, infections in the urological tract like urinary tract infection (UTI), allergies and even hereditary aspects passed on from parents/family members.
Certain elements make an individual more prone to acquiring interstitial cystitis, such as:
Sex/Gender: Women are more often diagnosed with BPS than men.
Age: People aged 30 years and older are predisposed to IC.
Pre-Existing Chronic Pain Illnesses: People who already suffer from chronic pain maladies like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome are at higher risk of developing interstitial cystitis.
Depending upon how often a person encounters the urge to pass urine and the severity of bladder damage, the symptoms of interstitial cystitis vary among patients. Typical signs consist of:
- Intense pain in the area of the vagina and anus in women
- Discomfort in the scrotum and anus in men
- Continuous aching in the pelvic region
- Incessantly feeling the urge to urinate
- Passing urine very often in a day, sometimes up to 60 times in 24 hours, albeit in small quantities
Furthermore, the intensity of pain experienced in IC increases during menstruation, physical exercise, sexual intercourse, undue stress and prolonged phases of sitting. If the symptoms of BPS are not reported at once to a doctor, it results in complications including the decreased capacity of the bladder, lowered productivity and depression.
The physician conducts a series of tests to determine the possible reason and severity of interstitial cystitis in the patient. These comprise a pelvic exam, urine test, tissue biopsy of the bladder/urethra, to look for signs of UTI or bladder cancer. The healthcare provider also questions the patient about their medical history and advises them to maintain a record of their urine passage volume and frequency based on fluid intake in a bladder diary.
Additionally, a cystoscopy is performed, wherein a thin tubular apparatus holding a small camera called a cystoscope is inserted through the urethra, to view the internal assembly of the bladder. This helps the physician determine if any serious damage has occurred in the epithelial lining of the bladder.
Even though there is no cure for interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome, the symptoms can be managed with a combination of therapies. These comprise:
- Physical therapy involving pelvic floor exercises, which provide relief from pelvic pain and stimulate normal bowel and bladder movements
- Prescription oral medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for soothing bladder pain, antidepressants to uplift moods, antihistamines to treat allergies that may be the cause of IC
- Nerve stimulation techniques like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), sacral nerve stimulation, which ease tension in bladder muscles and assist in controlling the frequency of urination
- Bladder distension procedures and other medications instilled into the bladder to reduce the urge to pass urine very often
- Surgery entailing protocols of fulguration, resection, bladder augmentation, which eliminate ulcers, inflammation in the bladder and increase bladder capacity
These treatment approaches vary between each patient with interstitial cystitis and aid in regulating bladder movements, reducing the frequency of passing urine and pacifying pain in the pelvic region, for improved productivity in day-to-day activities.