interstitial cystitisCystitis is a particularly common bladder infection, in fact pretty much all women will contract cystitis at some point in their lifetime with 20% of sufferers experiencing recurrences. But no matter how common this infection is in men and women, it doesn’t make its symptoms any less uncomfortable for sufferers of cystitis.

Whilst the unpleasant effects of regular cystitis can be reduced and even completely treated within just a few days, lingering symptoms may be a sign of interstitial cystitis.

Whilst the two conditions share a name and a couple of common symptoms, interstitial cystitis does differ from cystitis can help you to access the appropriate medication in order to limit pain.

What is interstitial cystitis?

Like many conditions, interstitial cystitis is defined by its symptoms. Like regular cystitis and other urinary tract infections (UTIs), you may need to urinate more frequently and urgently, but the recurring nature of interstitial cystitis, increased discomfort and lack of responsiveness to standard antibiotics can cause serious discomfort.

The antibiotics used to treat UTIs like cystitis are designed to target bacterial infections, and as interstitial cystitis isn’t caused by bacteria getting into the bladder, other treatments must be sought to relieve its symptoms. It is not clear exactly what causes interstitial cystitis, however research suggests that the condition may be inherited.

Who is at risk?

Whilst cystitis is particularly common in the UK, only 400,000 people are affected by interstitial cystitis. Like regular cystitis, interstitial cystitis affects more women than men, with 90% of all cases experienced by female sufferers. Although the cause of interstitial cystitis is unknown, it is understood that those with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia are deemed more at risk.

Do I have interstitial cystitis?

Knowing the symptoms of interstitial cystitis is the first step to getting the access you need to treatment. Whilst symptoms of interstitial cystitis vary from individual to individual, sufferers of the condition may experience:

  • Intense pain in the lower abdominal, urethral or vaginal area with discomfort worsening after eating certain foods or having sexual intercourse
  • Increased frequency and urgency of urination – in severe cases sufferers may need to urinate up to 60 times a day
  • Increased pelvic pain when the bladder is full, when urinating or during menstruation
  • Lack of responsiveness to antibiotics used to treat regular cystitis.

Seeking treatment

While the usual course of antibiotics will have no impact on interstitial cystitis symptoms, certain lifestyle changes could make a difference.

By avoiding tight fitting clothes, quitting smoking, participating in regular exercise and utilising stress relieving techniques you could manage symptoms without the use of medication. Physiotherapy, painkillers, antidepressants, antihistamines, bladder distension, bladder instillation and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may also provide effective relief.

Like cystitis, interstitial cystitis sufferers can find that their quality of life is dramatically affected, however with the right support and treatment you can manage and reduce its troubling symptoms effectively.