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Interstitial Cystitis

WHAT IS INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS?

Interstitial cystitis, also known as IC or bladder pain syndrome (BPS), or painful bladder syndrome is a chronic bladder feeling of pain and pressure in the bladder area. Along with this pain are urinary tract symptoms that may have lasted for more than 6 weeks without having an infection or other clear cause.

From the moment you contact Loma Linda University Health, we do everything we can to make sure your treatment for interstitial cystitis runs smoothly. Our goal is to make your experience as convenient, comfortable and stress-free as possible.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS?

Some symptoms that you are suffering from interstitial cystitis include:

  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • A persistent and urgent need to urinate
  • Frequent urination, often in small amounts
  • Pain or discomfort while the bladder fills
  • Pain relief after urinating

WHAT CAUSES INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS?

The exact cause of interstitial cystitis is unknown.

HOW IS INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS DIAGNOSED?

Interstitial cystitis is not a urinary tract infection, and it cannot be specifically diagnosed. Instead, it is a diagnosis of exclusion. In other words, it can only be diagnosed after other conditions have been ruled out.

Your diagnosis of exclusions will begin with a history and a physical exam. You will be tested for a number of conditions, such as an infection, kidney disease, bladder stones or bladder cancer.  

A colonoscopy may be performed, and a tissue sample may be taken to rule out bladder cancer.

A fairly common finding in those who are diagnosed with interstitial cystitis from a cystoscopy is reddened patches known as Hunner’s ulcers. However, Hunner’s ulcers don’t have to be present to make a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis.

At Loma Linda Health, effective treatment starts with a precise diagnosis, and we are experts in finding the root cause of these disorders. As an academic medical center, we bring together every specialist you may need to collaborate onsite on your plan of care.

HOW IS INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS TREATED?

No one treatment for interstitial cystitis works for everyone. There is a large array of treatments, and you may need to try a variety of treatments before you find the approach that alleviates your symptoms.

The most commonly prescribed treatments for interstitial cystitis are:

Physical therapy - Working with a physical therapist may relieve pelvic pain associated with muscle tenderness, restrictive connective tissue or muscle abnormalities in your pelvic floor.

Oral medications - Oral medications that may improve the signs and symptoms of interstitial cystitis include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Pentosan polysulfate sodium (Elmiron®, which is designed to restore the inner surface of the bladder)

Sacral nerve stimulation - These treatments include:

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Bladder distention
  • Medications instilled into the bladder
  • Dimethyl sulfoxide

Surgery - Surgeries for interstitial cystitis include:

Fulguration – This minimally invasive method involves insertion of instruments through the urethra to burn off ulcers that may be present with interstitial cystitis.

Resection – This is another minimally invasive method that involves insertion of instruments through the urethra to cut around any ulcers.

Bladder augmentation – In this procedure, a surgeon increases the capacity of your bladder by putting a patch of intestine on the bladder.

Other treatment for interstitial cystitis include:

  • Lifestyle and home remedies, such as dietary changes and bladder training
  • Self-care measures such as looser clothing, exercise and quitting smoking
  • Alternative medicine, such as guided imagery and acupuncture

These treatments have not been well-studied for interstitial cystitis, so be sure to discuss the use of these therapies with your doctor.

WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS OF INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS?

Complications of interstitial cystitis include:

  • Pain
  • Reduced bladder capacity
  • Frequent Urination
  • Reduction in sexual intimacy
  • Damaging to relationships
  • Low self-esteem
  • Social embarrassment
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety and depression

WHO IS AT RISK FOR INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS?

Most people diagnosed with interstitial cystitis are diagnosed in their 30s and older. Having a chronic pain disorder also seems to put you at a greater risk of developing interstitial cystitis. According to researchers, interstitial cystitis has also been associated with persons with fair skin and red hair.

NEXT STEPS

Be proactive. Know the risk factors of interstitial cystitis and proactively seek medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms. To request an evaluation at Loma Linda University Health, contact your provider or schedule the appointment through MyChart.