Having interstitial cystitis (IC), a chronic bladder inflammation, is like having a urinary tract infection on overdrive: It hurts like heck, and you constantly have to pee, sometimes 60 times a day. While IC isn't an infection and can't be cured, pain relievers and other treatments can minimize its impact on your life. Perseverance is vital, though, because nothing works for everyone. It can take trial and error for you and your doc to find what helps you most.
Among the treatments worth trying: drugstore and prescription pain relievers; Elavil, an antidepressant; antihistamines; and Elmiron, the only drug approved for IC. It helps about a third of people but can take several months to bring relief. Also, cyclosporine has recently been reported to radically improve IC, though it's not approved for it yet. Other alternatives include bladder hydrodistention, a procedure that involves overfilling the bladder with water, which seems to subdue pain signals; relaxation techniques that help you go less often; and mild electrical stimulation of the skin near your bladder.
It's possible for certain foods to irritate your bladder, such as alcohol, aged cheese, artificial sweeteners, coffee, fruits, some nuts, processed meats, onions, rye bread, tofu, tomatoes, and yogurt. Try eliminating all of them, then adding them back to your diet one by one (a few days apart), to see if any aggravate your IC.
New treatments are in the research pipeline, so stay tuned. Derivatives of APF (antiproliferative factor), a substance that affects the bladder lining, seem to help. Testing is also being done with an unusual kind of massage -- vibroacoustic music -- that reduces chronic pain for 40 percent of people. It hasn't been tried for IC yet, but some day your doc may write you a prescription for good vibrations.Having interstitial cystitis (IC), a chronic bladder inflammation, is like having a urinary tract infection on overdrive: It hurts like heck, and you constantly have to pee, sometimes 60 times a day. While IC isn't an infection and can't be cured,... More