Interstitial cystitis, also called painful bladder syndrome, is a challenging condition that can impact all facets of life. An inflammatory disease of the bladder, it causes urinary urgency and frequency, along with ulceration and bleeding of the lining of the bladder. This can lead to scarring and stiffening. Diagnosing IC can be difficult, the symptoms are varied, and there is no cure. There are, however treatment strategies that can help mitigate symptoms. Here are more facts about interstitial cystitis.
Causes Of Interstitial Cystitis
The cause of IC is unknown. It is not thought to be caused by an infectious agent, and urine cultures are generally negative. Diagnosis usually occurs after ruling out other conditions, such as, UTIs, endometriosis, sexually transmitted infections, and even bladder cancer. The frequency and severity of symptoms also help to diagnose the condition.
Your doctor may perform a pelvic exam to assess the health of your internal pelvic organs. A cystoscopy may be advised to determine if the lining of the bladder is healthy, and a biopsy to rule out bladder cancer.
There are several hypotheses to probable causes of IC. Autoimmunity is one such possibility. An autoimmune reaction occurs when the immune system attacks tissues in the body, mistakenly recognizing them as an invader. This attack leads to inflammation and tissue damage. It is surmised that these immune system attacks produce antibodies to the bladder lining, causing pain and other symptoms.
Hunner’s lesions or ulcers are thought to be the result of these autoimmune attacks. These lesions are patches or areas of inflammation on the bladder wall. These inflammatory patches are an important diagnostic feature, however, they only affect 5-10 percent of patients. A cystoscopy can confirm if these ulcers exist.
Treatment often reduces symptoms dramatically. Steroid injections, ulcer resection, or fulguration( laser) are all techniques used to treat Hunner’s lesions. These lesions should not be confused with glomerulations, or areas of bleeding within the bladder wall, also characteristic of IC. Glomerulations, unlike Hunner’s lesions, do not automatically lead to an IC diagnosis.
Women are affected five times as often as men. IC, typically, affects those in middle age. Millions of people worldwide suffer from this painful condition. Chronic urinary tract symptoms, lasting more than six weeks, may also lead to an IC diagnosis.
Symptoms Associated with IC
- Urinary urgency
- Frequent urination
- Pelvic pain and pressure
- Painful sex
- Chronic pain
- Bladder discomfort
- Stiffening and scarring of the bladder
Associated Risk Factors
Food sensitivities are implicated in IC. Certain foods may intensify symptoms, and should be excluded on an experimental basis, to determine if they are exacerbating the condition. Oxalates are implicated in IC, and should be decreased or eliminated for a trial period to determine the impact on symptoms.
A gluten and dairy-free diet is also worth trying to see if the outcome is favorable. Acidic foods like alcohol, caffeine, MSG, and soda should be minimized for several weeks. Be aware that citrus fruits and spicy food can also be culprits. Implementing an anti-yeast diet is often helpful as the yeast toxins are irritating to the bladder wall.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is known to be involved in IC – specifically, the sympathetic nervous system. This is the fight or flight portion of the ANS, and is associated with stress. Finding ways to manage stress may decrease the immune reaction and inflammation associated with IC.
IBS and fibromyalgia are two conditions seen in conjunction with IC. Magnesium deficiency and an unhealthy inner ecosystem may play a role in the development of IC. Supplementation with magnesium and a high-potency probiotic can reduce the symptoms of both these conditions. They also neutralize the toxins from yeast.
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Hormonal Imbalances And IC
Hormonal imbalances contribute to inflammation, which can aggravate the symptoms of IC. Why is it that women suffer from IC much more than men? It has to do with the female hormone, estrogen. Symptoms of IC tend to worsen during ovulation when estrogen levels peak. These high-levels of estrogen activate mast cells within the bladder lining, causing inflammation and irritation.
Those with IC have more mast cells than those without this condition. Taking progesterone is important because it decreases the negative effects of estrogen. While both hormones are critical, the ratio of the two is key. Women with IC have low progesterone levels making them estrogen dominant. Supplementing with bio-identical progesterone is easy, and evens out the activating effects of estrogen.
Balance your hormones, naturally, by eating an anti-inflammatory, organic diet, and exercising consistently. Get adequate sun exposure, and make time for relaxation. Sticking to a strict sleep schedule, and staying hydrated can also reduce your risk. Any protocol that supports your immune system will decrease your risk, and mitigate symptoms.
Treatment Options For Painful Symptoms
Many treatment options are available to those suffering from IC. Ozone therapy, in particular, is showing great promise for this condition. Many patients with IC obtain long-term pain relief when treated with ozone. Ozone has an anti-inflammatory effect by decreasing mast-cell activity. It kills bacteria and activates the immune cells within the bladder lining improving their health. Damaged cells replace themselves more quickly when stimulated with ozone.
The pelvic floor – a group of muscles that regulate bladder function – may need to be treated. Imbalances in the sacrum are thought to interfere with pelvic floor function. If low back pain is present in an IC patient, Prolozone therapy may prove helpful. The involves injecting ozone into the pelvic floor and sacrum ligaments, and was discovered by Dr. Frank Shallenberger.
Possible Treatment Options
1. Ozone therapy
2. Dietary restrictions
3. Anti-inflammatory medications
4. Bladder instillation with DMSO and heparin
8. Histamine blockers
11. Bladder retraining
12. Stress management
13. Energy healing
15. Physical therapy
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Interstitial cystitis is a complex, painful condition that can greatly decrease a person’s quality of life. While there is no cure, many people with IC turn to alternative treatments in hopes that something will work to alleviate their chronic pain and discomfort.
Finding appropriate treatment options will likely involve much trial and error. Hopefully, with persistence, relief can be found. The best approach is a combination of treatments.
Do you, or a someone you know, have interstitial cystitis? Let me know in the comments:)
Disclaimer: This article is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice.