Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a condition involving inflammation and irritation of the bladder. It can cause chronic pain in the bladder, pelvic pain and an increased frequency of urination. IC is also known as painful bladder syndrome, frequency urgency dysuria syndrome, chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome.
Interstitial cystitis can have a significant impact on the sufferers’ quality of life, as it may affect their ability to work, sleep pattern as well as their social and physical activities. It is a progressive condition, i.e. in the absence of treatment, the symptoms of IC become worse with time.
Types of interstitial cystitis
There are two types of IC: Hunner’s ulcer and non-ulcerative IC.
- Hunner’s ulcer is a type of IC that affects the lining of the bladder. This can cause bleeding and pain.
- Non-ulcerative IC does not affect the lining of the bladder.
Interstitial cystitis can affect both men and women, but it is more common in women. In most people, IC’s main sign is increased frequency of urination. This means that you have to go to the bathroom more often than usual. The other main sign is that the symptoms get worse when you have sex.
Urgency and pain incontinence are usually the last symptoms to show up. In women, symptoms may worsen around their period.
- Pain in the bladder or pelvic area: Feelings of pressure and tenderness around the bladder, pelvis, and the area between the anus and vagina or anus and scrotum (perineum)
- Chronic pelvic pain
- A frequent urge to urinate even several times at night, though with small volumes of urine
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Pain during sexual intercourse
Health complications of untreated interstitial cystitis
If IC is left untreated, it can lead to a number of health complications. These may include:
- Chronic pain: The pain associated with IC can be chronic and severe. This can lead to problems with work, family, and social life.
- Depression: The chronic pain of IC can lead to depression.
- Urinary tract infections: IC may increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
- Kidney damage: In some cases, IC can lead to kidney damage.
- Bladder rupture: In rare cases, the bladder can rupture if it is filled with too much urine. This can be a life-threatening condition.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of IC, it is important to see a doctor. With treatment, most people with IC are able to manage their symptoms and live normal, healthy lives.
Causes of interstitial cystitis
There is no one known cause of IC. It is thought to be the result of a combination of factors. These factors may include:
- An abnormal response of the bladder to infection or inflammation: This means that the bladder does not heal properly after an infection or inflammation.
- An abnormal lining of the bladder: This can make the bladder more sensitive to irritants.
- A problem with the nerves in the pelvis: This can cause pain signals to be sent to the brain more often.
- Autoimmune disorders: This is when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells.
- Muscle spasms in the pelvic floor: The pelvic floor is the group of muscles that support the bladder. When these muscles are tight, it can cause pain.
Bladder Health in interstitial cystitis
The walls of the bladder are lined with a layer of cells called the urothelium. In people with IC, this layer is damaged, which allows urine and other irritants to come into contact with the underlying tissue and nerves. This can lead to inflammation and pain.
Risk factors for IC
There are a number of factors that may increase your risk of developing IC, including:
- age – IC is more common in people over the age of 40
- sex – as mentioned, IC is more common in women
- family history – if you have a family member with IC, you may be more likely to develop the condition
- certain health conditions – such as endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, uterine fibroids, fibromyalgia, and vulvodynia in women and chronic prostatitis in men are also present in IC patients
- medications – such as those used to treat urinary tract infections
Conventional treatment options for interstitial cystitis
There is no one known cure for IC. However, there are treatments that can help to manage the symptoms. These treatments may include:
- Bladder distention: This is a procedure in which the doctor fills the bladder with saline solution to stretch the walls of the bladder. This can help to reduce pain and frequency.
- Medications: There are a number of medications that can help to relieve IC symptoms. These include pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, tricyclic antidepressants, and antispasmodics.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove lesions or blockages in the bladder. Surgery is usually only considered when other treatments have failed.
Ayurvedic Perspective for IC
Interstitial Cystitis is classified as a vata pitta disorder in Ayurveda. It falls under the category of “Usha Vata”, in which vata dosha gets vitiated as a result of Pitta dosha imbalance in the body.
According to Ayurvedic principles, pitta dosha aggravation can lead to excess body heat, inflammation and poor liver function. It also leads to hormonal imbalance symptoms, which many women suffer from along with IC.
Pitta dosha imbalance leads to high digestive fire and build up of toxins “Ama” inside the body. Ama poorly affects immune system function and disturbs the flow of vata dosha, in specific apana vayu that regulates the elimination functions inside the body.
Vata imbalance leads to degeneration of bladder walls and weakening of muscles of the urinary system and pitta dosha causes burning sensation, inflammation and frequent infections.
Ayurvedic Treatment for IC
A holistic system of medicine, Ayurveda will help you to treat the condition at the root cause level and recover from IC so that it doesn’t recur in future. Ayurvedic treatment for IC involves herbal medicines, diet and lifestyle changes and yogic practices. It helps to strengthen the urinary system function, boost immunity and get rid of the toxins and inflammation from the body.
Ayurvedic Herbs for treatment of interstitial cystitis
Ayurvedic medicines and formulations are highly effective to treat multiple symptoms of chronic IC. Herbs are plant based medicines that also act as dietary supplement for IC patients. Here are the best Ayurvedic herbs that can be used to treat IC:
- Bhringaraj: Bhringaraj is an herb that has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It is often used to treat pain and inflammation.
- Gokshura: Gokshura is an herb that is traditionally used to treat urinary disorders. It has diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties.
- Shilajit: Shilajit is an herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Triphala: Triphala is an Ayurvedic herbal formula that contains three fruits. It is traditionally used to treat digestive disorders and constipation.
In addition, herbs such as aloe vera, marshmallow root, kutki, giloy, bhumi alma, yavakshar and dandelion are helpful to support liver function and balance pitta dosha in the body.
Ayurvedic Dietary Tips for treatment of interstitial cystitis
There are a number of dietary changes that can help to relieve IC symptoms. These include:
- Eliminating trigger foods: Certain foods and beverages can irritate the bladder and make IC symptoms worse. These include alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, and acidic fruits.
- Increasing water intake: Drinking plenty of water can help to flush out the bladder and reduce irritation.
- Avoiding constipation: Constipation can worsen IC symptoms. To avoid constipation, eat a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of fluids.
- Limiting salt intake: Too much salt can increase urinary frequency and pain.
- Simplify your diet: Eating easy to digest meals can help to reduce bloating and abdominal pain.
Best foods to eat for interstitial cystitis treatment
There are a number of foods that can help to relieve IC symptoms. These include:
- Water: Drinking plenty of water can help to flush out the bladder and reduce irritation.
- Cranberry juice: Cranberry juice contains compounds that can help to prevent urinary tract infections.
- Broccoli: Broccoli is a high-fiber food that can help to reduce constipation.
- Apples: Apples are a source of quercetin, an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Yogurt: Yogurt contains probiotics that can help to keep the urinary tract healthy.
Foods to Avoid
There are also a number of foods that should be avoided if you have IC. These include:
- Alcohol: Alcohol can irritate the bladder and make IC symptoms worse.
- Caffeine: Caffeine can also irritate the bladder and increase urinary frequency.
- Spicy and fried foods: Spicy and fried foods, specifically fried snacks can worsen the pain and inflammation of IC.
- Acidic fruits: Acidic fruits can also irritate the bladder.
- Artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners can increase urinary frequency and pain.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle Tips for treatment of interstitial cystitis
If you are living with IC, there are a number of things you can do to manage your symptoms and live a healthy, happy life. Here are essential lifestyle changes that can help to relieve IC symptoms:
- Quit smoking and alcohol: Smoking and alcohol can irritate the bladder and make IC symptoms worse. If you smoke or consume alcohol on regular basis, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health.
- Manage stress: Stress can worsen IC symptoms. Try to find ways to reduce stress in your life.
- Exercise: Exercise can help to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor and reduce pain.
- Practice good hygiene: Good hygiene practices can help to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections. These include wiping from front to back, urinating after sex, and avoiding douching.
- Stretching and Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor. Similarly, stretching exercises and yoga practice, specifically for pelvic floor will counter pain and inflammation in the pelvic region.
Helpful yoga asana for treatment of IC
Regular yoga practice helps to reduce stress and inflammation in the body. It also helps to tone up and strengthen the muscles of urinary system, thus making the bladder stronger. There are many different yoga asanas that are helpful for treating IC:
- Butterfly Pose: It helps to balance the hormones and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, including the urinary system and bladder in specific. It is also helpful to promote fertility and hormone balance in women.
- Fish Pose: Fish pose is beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety. It also helps to improve digestion and respiratory function.
- Cobra Pose: Cobra pose helps to increase circulation and stimulate the lymphatic system.
- Thunderbolt Pose: It helps to balance Vata dosha, in specific Apana vayu and also improves digestion.
- Triangle Pose: Triangle pose is a great way to stretch and strengthen the muscles and joints. It also helps to improve digestion.
Yoga is a gentle and effective way to treat IC. The asanas, or poses, listed above are just a few of the many that can help. If you’re interested in trying yoga for IC, be sure to consult with an experienced practitioner.
IC is a chronic condition, which means it can last for months or years. Ayurvedic treatment for interstitial cystitis is highly effective to permanently cure the condition and give relief from bladder pain. If you are struggling with IC symptoms, then you should not ignore the condition as it can progress further leading to multiple health complications.
Ayurveda helps to strengthen the urinary system, thus prevent and treat the inflammation and pain at the root cause level. Consult with Medhya’s Ayurvedic Doctor to get your personalised health plan involving prescription for Ayurvedic medicine, diet, yoga and lifestyle guidelines.
1. Is IC an autoimmune disease?
IC is not an autoimmune disease. The cause of IC is unknown, however, there are many theories. One theory suggests that IC is caused by an overactive immune system. The immune system may be activated by a virus or other trigger, which then damage the bladder. Other theories suggest that IC may be caused by nerve damage or abnormalities in the structure of the bladder. Regardless of the cause, the symptoms of IC are thought to be due to inflammation of the bladder lining. This inflammation causes pain and frequent urination. In some cases, the inflammation can also lead to bleeding. IC is a chronic condition that often requires lifelong management. There is no cure for IC, however, there are treatments that can help to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
2. Does IC feel like a UTI?
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic inflammation of the bladder wall that can cause many urinary symptoms, including frequency, urgency, and pelvic pain. While the exact cause of IC is unknown, it is often associated with an underlying defect in the bladder lining. This defect allows harmful substances to escape from the urine and irritate the surrounding tissues. Many IC patients also have a history of urinary tract infections (UTIs), and it is thought that a past infection may play a role in the development of IC. However, it is important to note that IC and UTI are two distinct conditions. While both conditions can cause similar symptoms, they differ in their underlying causes and treatment options. If you think you may have IC, it is important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, there are many effective treatments available that can help to improve your symptoms.
How does interstitial cystitis begin?
Clinical presentation and treatment of bladder pain syndrome/ interstitial cystitis (BPS/IC) in India