Managing Interstitial Cystitis
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic bladder health condition that causes discomfort or pain in the bladder area. Along with this pain are lower urinary tract symptoms which have lasted for more than six weeks, without having an infection or other clear causes. Most people with IC feel the need to urinate frequently and urgently. IC is more common in women than in men. In fact, IC is estimated to affect 3 to 8 million women and roughly 1 to 4 million men in the U.S.
IC can be treated with a combination of lifestyle changes, medication and other therapies. Surgery is rarely used to treat IC.
Managing stress is one way to help reduce IC flare ups. General stress management tips include deep breathing exercises, taking a hot bath, journaling, getting a massage and being physically active. Some people listen to music to reduce stress. Other people use meditation or prayer to help deal with their stress.
Diet is another important factor when it comes to managing IC. Consider reducing or eliminating caffeinated and citrus drinks because they can irritate the bladder. Some people with IC report that citrus fruits, chocolate and tomatoes irritate their bladder. Other people with IC report alcoholic drinks, spicy foods and carbonated drinks irritate their bladder.
The simplest way to know your diet-related triggers is to try an “elimination diet” for 1 to 2 weeks. This is when you stop eating all of the foods that you think could irritate your bladder. If your symptoms improve while you are on the elimination diet, this means that at least 1 of the foods was irritating your bladder. You will then slowly introduce the foods you eliminated back into your diet to try and pinpoint which one(s) may be causing the trouble.
During the elimination diet, keep a food diary to record everything you eat and drink. This helps you know how certain food and beverages may affect your bladder and IC symptoms.
Remember, if you’re living with IC, there are many ways to manage the condition. Work with your health care provider to find a plan that’s right for you.
If you think you may have IC, your health care provider will conduct a physical exam, take your medical history and review your symptoms. The four clues that suggest IC are:
- Bladder and pelvic pain or discomfort.
- Urinary urgency and frequency.
- Symptoms that persist for more than 6 weeks with no clear causes.
- Negative results from lab tests to check for infections.