UTIs can be extremely painful, and it can hamper normal life. But UTIs can be treated easily by a urologist or a general medical practitioner. Chronic pain in the urinary bladder that hinders life is known as Bladder Pain Syndrome or Interstitial Cystitis.
It mostly affects women than men, and can greatly impact the quality of life. There is no permanent cure for it, and it can often be mistaken for any other disease like UTIs, endometriosis, and STIs.
The severity of the symptoms and response to treatment depends on a variety of factors.
The urinary bladder stores the urine that is generated in the kidney, and once it is full and receives a signal from the brain, the sphincters that keep the bladder closed relaxes and urine passes through the urethra.
It might often be mistaken for UTI which is caused by bacteria but the exact cause of IC isn’t known and is incurable and only treatment can bring relief from the pain and discomfort.
Painful bladder syndrome symptoms and ways to treat the malady
So if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms for more than 4-6 weeks, then it’s time to consult a doctor:
· Chronic pelvic pain
· Frequent urination, about 30-40 times in a day, even during the night.
· Urgency to pee, it is like the urge never subsides.
· Pain and uneasiness in the lower abdomen, which worsens when the bladder is full.
· Pain worse during your periods
· Pain during sex
· Pain in the bladder, urethra, vulva, vagina, and rectum.
· Pain in the pelvic muscles and lower back
The symptoms may vary from one woman to another, and the intensity can be due to age and other related factors.
The exact cause is still not discovered but doctors believe that if an individual has a bladder infection, inflammation or ulceration, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), endometriosis, allergies, and fibromyalgia.
So researchers believe it may be due to hereditary, nerve problem or an autoimmune reaction, but nothing conclusive isn’t known till now.
Women above 40 are more susceptible to Painful Bladder Syndrome
Since an exact cause is unknown, hence there is no one way to diagnose this syndrome. A number of tests might need to be performed to rule out other problems.
· Medical history
· Pelvic examination
· Cystoscopy- a catheter with a camera is sent up the urethra to check the internal organs
· Bladder distention- fluid is filled in the bladder to expand it and is performed by a doctor under anesthesia.
Bladder Pain Syndrome Treatment
There is no universal treatment plan for all, various treatment methods and a combination of several treatments might be able to relieve some of the symptoms. The treatment options for bladder pain syndrome include:
· Physical therapy will help relieve the pain in the pelvic muscles and strengthen the pelvic floor by incorporating a number of exercises and techniques like kegel.
· Medication like OTC pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, antihistamine and antidepressants which will help to relieve the pain and reduce the urgency to pee.
· Bladder stretching is a method to diagnose as well as treatment methods to relieve symptoms. It may be repeated every 6 months.
· Nerve stimulation uses a mild electrical pulse to relieve pain, frequency, and urgency to urinate.
· Surgery is the last resort to treat Bladder Pain Syndrome and it is used extremely rarely.
Lifestyle changes can go a long way providing comfort:
· Reducing stress can help in combating the symptoms. You can try meditation and psychotherapy, as anxiety is seen to increase IC.
· Quit smoking.
· Wear loose clothes that don’t put pressure on your abdomen
· Exercise regularly like swimming, stretching and yoga to reduce the intensity of the symptoms.
· Change your diet, as certain food is seen as an irritant for IC. Common food that is seen as triggers are tomatoes, chocolates, alcohol, spicy foods, citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and carbonated drinks. Eliminate the foods and introduce them one by one so you can eliminate the exact irritant.
· Bladder training involves going to urinate on the clock rather than the need. Gradually you need to increase the duration.
Bladder Pain syndrome might not be fatal but if left untreated it can reduce the quality of life as one needs to constantly go to the toilet, and it ends up hampering your social and professional life.
This creates problems in your sexual life and leads to low self-esteem and depression. Sleep disturbances can lead to other health problems.
During pregnancy, the symptoms get worse and certain medications are also harmful to a pregnant woman. Talk to your doctor about the course of treatment.
Painful bladder syndrome can greatly hamper your life, and you would need the support of your partner, family, and close friends.
Many women are embarrassed to discuss the problem and seek treatment. Even with treatment there might be flare-ups and have to be continued for a long time.