Cindy always felt like she had a bladder infection. She would go to the bathroom frequently, but only a little urine came out each time. It was so embarrassing to get up several times during a movie and she was always looking for the bathroom. She had burning and pain in her bladder but all tests on her urine came back negative. She was finally diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome (IC/PBS).
IC/PBS affects up to 6.5% of women in the United States. It is 5 times more common in women than men. The exact cause is not yet well understood. It is likely that it has multiple causes including a possible reaction to foods and drinks. The bladder lining and maybe even the urethra (tube through which you urinate) become red and irritated. This causes pain and makes the bladder contract or spasm making someone feel an urge to urinate all the time even though the bladder may be empty. Symptoms are usually frequent urination, burning with urination and pain. The pain typically worsens as the bladder fills and gets better with bladder emptying. IC/PBS can be confused with a urinary tract infection, but the urine culture won’t grow bacteria. It typically starts slowly and progressively worsens over time.
Frequently it causes pain with sex and can decrease quality of life and result in frustration.
Very commonly people who have IC/PBS also have a history of other pain syndromes like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome or endometriosis. Sometimes other problems like bladder stones, bladder cancer and even vaginal dryness following menopause can have similar symptoms to IC/PBS. So it is important to be evaluated by a physician to be sure of the diagnosis.
Treatment of interstitial cystitis can include a change in diet or decrease in how much fluid you drink. Most people with interstitial cystitis drink minimal fluids, since any bladder filling causes an urge to go to the bathroom again. These people sometimes go to the bathroom 20 times a day.
There are oral medications to heal the bladder and help to prevent future bladder irritation. Medications placed in the bladder are also helpful. A lot of people with interstitial cystitis have bladder washings on a regular basis to prevent the bladder from getting red and irritated. The urge and frequency can often be helped by oral medications or other treatments.
Cindy was evaluated at Central Florida Urogynecology and noticed that her main problem was that she reacted to tomatoes. She had bladder washing treatments that helped heal the redness in her bladder. She also decreased the amount of foods that she ate containing tomatoes and she can now sleep all night and watch a movie without having to go to the bathroom.
If you are getting frustrated since you feel you spend your day in the bathroom, call Central Florida UroGynecology for an evaluation. IC/PBS is a condition affecting many women. No need to suffer in silence. See us at Central Florida Urogynecology so that help can be obtained.
Marja Sprock, M.D is board certified in OB/GYN and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (Urogynecology) and offer academic level medicine in a private practice setting.