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Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic inflammation of the bladder.

As your bladder fills with urine and expands, nerve endings send signals to your brain that it’s time to urinate. With interstitial cystitis, these signals are sent to the brain even though your bladder is not full. Thus, people feel the need to urinate small amounts more often.

Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis

  • A persistent, urgent need to urinate
  • Pelvic pain
  • Bladder pain
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Interstitial cystitis is often misdiagnosed as chronic urinary tract infection, but with interstitial cystitis, urine cultures are free of bacteria.

Treatments for Interstitial Cystitis

There is no single treatment for interstitial cystitis, and people respond to different treatments.  

Oral medications

Oral medications that may relieve symptoms include:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox), and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline or imipramine (Tofranil), to help relax the bladder and block pain
  • Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, others) and loratadine (Claritin, others), which may reduce urinary urgency and frequency and relieve other symptoms

Nerve Stimulation

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) uses mild electrical pulses to increase blood flow to the bladder, which may strengthen the bladder muscles and block pain.

Bladder Distention

Bladder distention is the stretching of the bladder with water or gas. The procedure may be repeated if the response is long lasting.

Bladder Instillation

In bladder instillation, dimethyl sulfoxide – or DMSO (Rimso-50) – is placed into your bladder through a catheter inserted through the urethra. After 15 minutes, the solution exits the body through urination. This procedure may reduce inflammation and possibly prevent muscle contractions that cause frequency, urgency, and pain.

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