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Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial Cystitis | NYC Pelvic DoctorTypical cystitis directly links to a urinary tract infection (or UTI). interstitial cystitis is a medical condition that has nothing to do with a UTI. In other words, while an untreated UTI can lead to cystitis, it does not usually lead to interstitial cystitis. They are two completely different conditions, despite the similar-sounding names and that both involve your bladder.

Also known as Interstitial Cystitis (IC) or painful bladder syndrome, interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that causes pain or pressure in your bladder. Doctors, including gynecologist, aren’t sure what causes this condition, although it may have something to do with a defect or tear in the lining of your bladder wall. Interstitial cystitis can be mildly uncomfortable or severely painful.

Women older than 30 are most at risk for painful bladder syndrome. If you get it, you may suffer from this chronic condition for years. It may continue for the rest of your life. There is no known cure for interstitial cystitis, although your OBGYN can treat it to control your pain and other symptoms.

The Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis (IC)

Usually, your bladder sends signals to your brain only when it’s filled, so you get the urge to urinate. But when you have interstitial cystitis or IC, you get the signal to urinate more frequently, and only a little comes out when you go. This issue is also common for a urinary tract infection. The symptoms of interstitial cystitis mimic those of a UTI so much that you may think that’s all you have.

But IC symptoms are chronic, where UTI symptoms go away with proper treatment. The pain and discomfort from interstitial cystitis can be mild or severe — and they vary over time.

Other symptoms of painful bladder syndrome include:

  • Persistent pain in your lower abdomen
  • Pain in your perineum, the area between your vagina and your anus
  • Painful sensations during vaginal intercourse
  • Bladder pain
  • Frequent urination

Symptoms should always be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by your gynecologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to exclude any serious underlying condition.

If you have painful bladder syndrome, it may lead to complications, depending on the severity of your condition. You may always have a smaller bladder capacity, meaning more trips to the bathroom.

The pain and discomfort, especially during sex, can lead to sexual dysfunction and intimacy issues.

Both of these together can cause depression and a lower quality of life. Seek counseling if you need help dealing with your medical condition.

Diagnosing Painful Bladder Syndrome

diagnosing cancer If you suspect that you have a UTI or IC, it’s a good idea to keep a bladder diary, in which you record your symptoms when you urinate and approximately how much. While the symptoms of both conditions — IC and UTI — are similar, the way to tell them apart is with a simple urine test. With interstitial cystitis, you’ll find no bacteria always present if you have a UTI. But there are other ways for your OBGYN to diagnose painful bladder syndrome, such as:

  • Performing a pelvic exam to check your genitals and pelvic organs
  • Taking a medical history about your frequent urge to urinate and reviewing your bladder diary, if you’ve been keeping one
  • Inserting a cystoscope, or thin tube with a light and camera on end, through your urethra into your bladder to examine the inner lining for damage
  • Using the cystoscope to inject water into your bladder, a process known as hydrodistention, to ascertain how much it can hold
  • Doing a potassium sensitivity test, in which water and potassium chloride are inserted separately into your bladder to determine if they feel the same or different
  • Taking a biopsy, which can be done through a cystoscope, to test for bladder cancer — it’s usually done if the other tests prove inconclusive


Treating interstitial cystitis is an imperfect science. While there’s no definitive cure, gynecologists in Midtown, Dr. Moriz, have several options to manage your symptoms. Unfortunately, the treatments don’t all work for everyone. Your OBGYN specialist often recommends the most common and least invasive first to see if they ease your symptoms before opting for the more invasive.

Interstitial cystitis treatment options include:

  • Oral medications to control symptoms:
    • Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to ease your pain
    • Antihistamines to lessen your need to urinate frequently
    • Pentosan, a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating IC, but which takes months to begin working
  • Physical therapy to relieve pain and strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor
  • Nerve stimulation, which can help control your bladder impulses and your discomfort:
    • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) delivers electrical pulses to your lower back or pubic area
    • Sacral nerve stimulation, which can be a permanently implanted device, sends electrical pulses to your bladder
  • Bladder manipulation through hydrodistention, which stretches your bladder to relieve your symptoms. Your doctor can repeat it as often as needed if it works
  • Dimethyl sulfoxide or DMSO, a medication put directly into your bladder through your urethra
  • Surgery as a last resort, to burn away ulcers in your bladder, resect your bladder or augment your bladder by grafting on a removed section of your colon

Lifestyle Changes to Try at Home

This advice doesn’t work for every woman suffering from interstitial cystitis, but they’re worth listing if they work for you. Try them in addition to the treatments you receive from your OBGYN, and you may find the combination helps relieve your pain and symptoms, such as:

  • Avoid tight clothing around your abdomen to keep anything from pressing on your bladder
  • Maintain a positive attitude and limit your stress
  • Stop smoking cigarettes, which can make any medical condition worse by weakening your immune system
  • Keep your weight at a healthy level
  • Stretch and exercise regularly, which can lessen your symptoms
  • Train your bladder to go at a specific time, like every half hour, instead of when you feel the need
  • Change your diet to limit or avoid the things that can irritate your bladder:
    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine, even in chocolate
    • Citrus fruits and juices
    • Carbonated beverages
    • Tomatoes
    • Spicy foods
    • Pickled food
    • Food containing lots of vitamin C
    • Some artificial sweeteners (test them for yourself)
    • Acidic foods

Symptoms should always be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by your gynecologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to exclude any serious underlying condition.

Have questions about Pelvic Pain, Interstitial Cystitis, or Bladder Infection? Schedule an appointment with one of the top-rated Gynecologist today.

Updated on Sep 23, 2023 by Manhattan Women’s Health and Wellness
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DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY The information on this website is to provide general information. The information on this website does NOT reflect definitive medical advice, and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a physician for a consultation and examination regarding any symptoms or signs you may be having. Your physician should make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to exclude a serious condition.