By: Amber Scrivner, RNC, OGNP

Do you have pain, pressure, urinary frequency, and/or urgency? Are you up several times at night to urinate and have pain with intercourse? Are your urinary symptoms worse with your menstrual cycle? If this sounds familiar, you may have Interstitial Cystitis (IC) or Bladder Pain Syndrome (BPS).

It is estimated that 3.4 to 7.8 million women in the US have symptoms of IC. The number is even larger when factoring the number of men and children diagnosed with IC. It can occur in women of any age and tends to run in families.

The cause of IC is still a medical mystery. Some patients note their symptoms started after a traumatic event. Typical events are falls, car accidents, pelvic surgery, or exposure to chemicals in a swimming pool. Another recent factor is ketamine drug exposure. Ketamine is known to cause bladder ulceration and damage.

IC can be diagnosed with a variety of tests. The Pelvic Pain and Urgency/Frequency Patient Symptom Scale (PUF) questionnaire helps with the diagnosis of IC. A score below 10 typically indicates the patient does not have IC. A PUF score between 10 and 20 is suspicious for IC and above 20 usually indicates IC as a probable diagnosis.

Treatment for IC includes dietary changes, stress management, pelvic floor physical therapy, oral medications, and bladder instillations. Dietary changes are often the first change recommended for patients. Caffeine is one of the worst offenders for patients with IC and the most challenging for patients to give up. Fruit juices, cranberry juice, sodas, tomato-based products, multivitamins, alcohol, chocolate, and artificial sweeteners are all triggers for IC.

A diagnosis of IC can be very challenging and upsetting to patients. However, providers who diagnose and treat IC find it to be very rewarding. It is important to remember you are not alone, and there are many ways to manage a diagnosis of IC.

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