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Interstitial Cystitis

Uncomfortable and sometimes painful, interstitial cystitis (IC) occurs when the bladder is inflamed. It affects mostly women but sometimes men and children.

Often called painful bladder syndrome, or PBS, this chronic problem differs from urinary tract infections in that it has no known cause or cure.

Interstitial cystitis symptoms include the following:

  • Discomfort and pain in the lower abdominal area
  • Pressure and tenderness in the bladder and pelvic area
  • Urgent need to urinate or frequent urination, or both
  • Pain intensity that changes as bladder fills or empties
  • For women, a worsening of symptoms during your periods

Interstitial cystitis: what you should know

  • Your interstitial cystitis symptoms can go away and return days, weeks, months and even years later.
  • If you have fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may also have interstitial cystitis.
  • There’s no definitive test to diagnose interstitial cystitis. Your doctor must first rule out other conditions, such as urinary tract infections, by performing one or more tests:
    • Urinalysis
    • Urine culture
    • Cystoscopy
    • Bladder and urethra biopsy
    • Bladder distention under anesthesia

Care for interstitial cystitis at Rush

While there is no cure for interstitial cystitis, your urogynecologist, urologist or OB-GYN will work with other specialists at Rush to treat your symptoms. Here are some approaches your doctor may recommend:

  • Bladder distention: This procedure stretches the bladder to relieve discomfort.
  • Bladder instillation: Doctors fill the bladder with a solution.
  • Medicines: Doctors may prescribe various medications based on your predominant symptoms.
  • Sacral­ nerve stimulation: Via devices either worn or surgically implanted, electrical pulses are sent to nerves in the lower back. This technology can alter nerve signals to the bladder and surrounding muscles, which has helped relieve symptoms in some people with IC.
  • IC diet: Your doctor may recommend removing certain foods from your diet. Here are some examples of foods and beverages your doctor may suggest you avoid:
    • Alcohol
    • Tomatoes
    • Spices
    • Chocolate
    • Caffeinated drinks

Bladder training: By emptying your bladder at specific times and using relaxation techniques, you might lessen your symptoms.

Pelvic floor physical therapy: Pelvic floor exercises guided by a trained pelvic floor physical therapist can lessen pain and urinary frequency.

Surgery: Doctors usually consider surgery only when all other methods have failed or pain is extreme. Fulgaration (the use of electric current to remove tissue), resection or augmentation of the bladder can be performed as a last resort.

Why choose Rush for interstitial cystitis care

  • The Program for Abdominal and Pelvic Health at Rush specializes in helping men and women with conditions such as interstitial cystitis. A program coordinator can help you navigate the multiple specialists (including urologists, urogynecologists and physical therapists) you might need to find relief.
  • As both researchers and clinicians, specialists at Rush keep up to date on the latest findings about interstitial cystitis treatments and diagnostic tools.
  • Interstitial cystitis often goes hand in hand with fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. At Rush, urologists, urogynecologists and OB-GYNs are closely connected with rheumatologists and gastroenterologists to provide optimal care for these patients.

Departments and programs that treat this condition