What you don’t know about your bladder could hurt you
Nobody wants to talk about bladders… but if you are one of the millions of people living with a painful bladder disorder, it is unavoidable.
If you’ve never heard of interstitial cystitis, you are not alone. It is pronounced in-ter-stish-uhl sĭ-stī’tĭs — IC for short. Between three and eight million women, and one to three million men in the United States have it. That’s a lot of people, but exact numbers are hard to come by because there is no single definitive test and it is often mistaken for other disorders. Diagnosis is made only after excluding other urinary/bladder conditions. The cause is not known.
IC is a chronic, often painful condition involving pressure and discomfort in the bladder and pelvic region, associated with urinary frequency and urgency, which can lead to disruption of normal activities. When health care providers are not properly educated about IC, diagnosis and appropriate treatment can be delayed for years, severely impacting quality of life. That’s exactly why health care providers and patients need information and education — and that’s where you can help.
For the past five years, Congress has provided funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote IC education and awareness. The CDC program supports much-needed healthcare provider and patient education, as well as information sharing between patients, healthcare providers, and researchers. Unfortunately, President Obama’s FY11 budget request recommends the elimination of this program.
More about IC
The Cause: The exact cause is still unknown, but researchers have identified several factors that may contribute to the development of IC.
- bladder trauma, such as from pelvic surgery
- bladder overdistention
- pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
- autoimmune disorder
- bacterial infection (cystitis)
- primary neurogenic inflammation
- spinal cord trauma
- the possible relationship between IC and abuse (sexual, physical, and childhood sexual) is being debated after different studies yielded conflicting results.
The Symptoms: Symptoms differ from person to person, but common symptoms include
- frequent urination — up to 60 times a day in the most severe cases.
- sense of urgency for urination, sometimes accompanied by pain, pressure, or spasms
- pain in the lower abdominal, urethral, or vaginal area
- pain associated with intercourse; men may experience testicular, scrotal and/or perineal pain, and painful ejaculation
The Treatment: Most doctors and patients find that a combination of treatments works best. It is a process of trial and error that includes
- oral medication
- topical medication
- bladder retraining
- physical therapy
- bladder instillations
- dietary supplements
- electrical nerve stimulation
- complementary and alternative treatments
Watch the short educational video:
Care2 Action: education and awareness for both health care providers and patients is crucial. Please Sign the Petition Asking Congress to Save Funding for Interstitial Cystitis
For more facts and information on IC, visit: Interstitial Cystitis Association