Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition — and part of the painful bladder syndrome spectrum — that can cause bladder pressure, bladder pain and sometimes even pelvic pain. This pain can range from severe pain to mild discomfort.

Your bladder is a hollow, yet muscular organ that stores your urine. It expands until it’s full and once it is, it signals your brain when it is time to urinate and communicates through your pelvic nerves. This communication is how you know it is time to urinate, at least for most people.

Those with interstitial cystitis have issues with those signals getting mixed up. They often feel like they need to urinate more often than others do, and when they do, it comes out in smaller volumes than it should.

Treatment Options for Interstitial Cystitis

Treatment for interstitial cystitis varies significantly and usually begins with the identification of dietary and environmental causes.

Sometimes your doctor may recommend:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Physical therapy (pelvic floor physical therapy)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Anti-histamines
  • Anticholinergic medications
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium) to enhance bladder lining
  • Sacral nerve stimulations (Interstim)

Most of the time, pain management plays a big role in treating interstitial cystitis. This might mean that your doctor will recommend narcotics to have a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) placed or to reduce discomfort.

Other times, patients may obtain relief through having medications directly instilled into their bladder on a regular basis.

Bladder removal and hysterectomies are sometimes used for extreme cases of interstitial cystitis, specifically cases that leave patients crippled by the symptoms. This is often a drastic step used to relieve pain by removing the source of discomfort. Other surgeries that patients may look into for extreme cases are bladder augmentation (making the bladder larger), urinary diversion (which reroutes the normal flow of urine), hydrodistention (bladder stretching).

Choosing Treatment: Pros and Cons

When choosing the treatment that is right for you, always ask your doctor questions about the risks and side effects that may come along with each option.

If your case is not severe, your doctor will more than likely refer you to a simple treatment option like behavioral therapy, physical therapy or medication. Discuss the pros and cons of each treatment method and make sure to mention your medical history to your doctor, because that may change their recommendations.

  • Behavioral therapy is the act of improving bothersome symptoms through changes in behavior. For interstitial cystitis, this means training your body to use the bathroom less by timing your trips to the bathrooms and shaping this behavior, with increased time periods each week. This treatment option usually has no side effects and is cost effective but may not work for patients with more extreme cases.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended to decrease tightness in the patient’s pelvic muscles. This can decrease pelvic pain and help with urinary urgency and frequency.
  • Different medications will have varying side effects, and your doctor will discuss these with you. If your symptoms are not extreme, you may want to try behavioral and physical therapy before medication.

Finally, if you have tried several of the treatment options above, it may be time to discuss surgery or other treatment options like sacral nerve stimulations with your doctor. If you have more questions about interstitial cystitis, feel free to visit my website.