What is Interstitial Cystitis? Well, it is a chronic condition that deals with issues of the bladder. It is more commonly known as painful bladder syndrome or PBS.
Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS)
This disorder is typically found in women, although it can affect men as well. In rare cases, children are diagnosed with PBS. The main symptoms of PBS present as:
- Pain in the pelvic region that is chronic and intense
- Frequent and persistent urination, usually in small amounts
- Pain during intercourse
Now, these symptoms might seem a little familiar to you. They are, indeed, very similar to symptoms of a urinary tract infection. Many who experience these symptoms for more than a few days seek a physician’s help, and the cultures for the urinary tract infection come back negative.
However, if someone with PBS gets a urinary tract infection, the symptoms are amplified.
There is truth to the fact that when some people say they feel as if their bladder is “bursting,” they do feel that way. When a normal bladder fills up, it signals to the brain the need to urinate. The brain sends messages into the pelvic nerves, and you get that sensation of nature calling. In PBS, the signal is sent to the brain too early, when the bladder isn’t near full. This leads to the individual feeling a constant need to urinate in small amounts.
This mix-up in signals is usually caused by a tear or injury in the lining of the bladder, and the toxins in the urine irritate the bladder tissue because of the compromise in the lining.
Impacts on Life
Although it might not sound very serious, the chronic need to go to the bathroom can drastically cut down on a person’s quality of life. Imagine not being able to go for more than 10 minutes without going to the bathroom—some patients with PBS report the need to urinate up to 60 times per day.
Sleep deprivation due to excessive urination can cause emotional issues and lead to depression and anxiety. In addition, chronic pain caused by PBS is amplified by lack of sleep.
Sometimes, this chronic pelvic pain can be debilitating. Some patients with PBS have such crippling pain that they are able to apply for a Canadian disability tax credit, because the symptoms interfere with their ability to hold a job and live a “normal” life.
There are several oral medications that have been shown to help relieve the symptoms of PBS, such as ibuprofen, antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, and Pentosan—a drug specifically aimed to cure PBS.
There are also medications that can be inserted directly into the bladder to help ease the symptoms. They are administered by a doctor using a catheter, and the solution remains in the bladder for 15 minutes. These treatments are usually performed once weekly for six to eight weeks (although extreme cases might require treatment for a year).
Those suffering from PBS can also make lifestyle changes that can help reduce pain and discomfort. Dietary restrictions often make a big difference, especially when patients cut out the “Four C’s:”
- Carbonated beverages
- Caffeine (in any form)
- Vitamin C
Also, artificial sweeteners have been shown to cause more aggravation, so reducing those can be helpful as well. Doing bladder and pelvic floor muscle exercises can strengthen those areas that are weakened by constant urination.
Painful Bladder Syndrome (Interstitial Cystitis) is a painful, but usually manageable disorder that can cause chronic pain, so it should be taken seriously. Regular medications, treatments, and lifestyle changes can greatly increase the quality of life for those with PBS.