Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition where the bladder is more sensitive than usual. It can lead to pain and discomfort, but health experts indicate that it is not a life threatening condition.
Interstitial cystitis causes pain in the pelvic area and an increased urgency to urinate. Experts estimate that the condition affects 700,000 to 1 million Americans.
There is no cure for interstitial cystitis, and scientists do not know what exactly causes it. However, doctors may recommend treatments, including lifestyle changes and surgery, which may help relieve or manage interstitial cystitis symptoms.
This article discusses the life expectancy of people with interstitial cystitis. It also explores treatment options for the condition and when to consult a doctor.
Interstitial cystitis is not life threatening. Experts suggest that while it does not lead to cancer, it is a chronic condition with no cure.
However, a healthcare professional can recommend treatments on an individual basis that may help improve interstitial cystitis symptoms within a few weeks or months.
In a small 2019 study, researchers noted that
They also noted that the study participants who did not attend follow-ups had fewer complications, such as Hunner’s lesions.
These individuals also had a higher bladder volume than those who regularly saw a doctor and received treatment for the condition. Hunner’s lesions are inflamed areas that
Treatment for interstitial cystitis varies between people living with the condition, as different treatments may work better for one person than another. There is no cure for interstitial cystitis, but treatment may help relieve pain and other symptoms.
A healthcare professional may prescribe one or more medications to help treat interstitial cystitis. Some common medications a doctor may recommend include:
- tricyclic antidepressants, which may help with pain and frequency of urination
- pentosan polysulfate sodium (Elmiron), the only medication with approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat interstitial cystitis directly
- muscle relaxants, including antispasmodics
- anti-inflammatory medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Electronic nerve stimulations
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) devices provide electrical stimulation to the bladder to help alleviate interstitial cystitis pain. A person can wear or use a TENS device externally.
Another type of electronic nerve stimulation device, which doctors call a sacral nerve stimulation implant, may be available for people with interstitial cystitis in the future if testing is successful. A healthcare professional places a sacral nerve stimulation implant inside a person’s body during surgery.
During a bladder instillation procedure, a doctor stretches the bladder with water while a person is under general anesthetic. Doctors may also administer medications, such as dimethyl sulfoxide, during the procedure to reduce inflammation and pain.
A person could improve their symptoms through some lifestyle modifications, which may include:
- eating a nutritious and balanced diet that limits certain foods and drinks that may irritate the bladder, such as:
- doing manipulative physical therapy exercises
- taking steps to reduce stress
- trying an elimination diet for 1–2 weeks, which helps identify foods that could be worsening symptoms
However, people should speak with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to their diet.
Learn more about interstitial cystitis and diet.
In severe cases, a doctor may recommend surgery for a person with interstitial cystitis. Typically, healthcare professionals do not suggest surgery unless the individual does not respond to other therapies.
If ulcers or Hunner’s lesions are present in a person’s bladder, a doctor may recommend laser surgery to treat and remove them.
Healthcare professionals may also recommend the following treatments for someone with interstitial cystitis:
- Botox injections
- neuromodulation therapy, which involves stimulating nerves with electrical impulses to alter how they work
- bladder ulcer cauterization, which may involve a doctor administering steroid injections or burning the ulcers while a person is under anesthetic
A person should consider consulting a doctor if they notice a more frequent or urgent need to urinate and pain in the bladder.
Several other medical conditions present similar symptoms to interstitial cystitis, so a person can speak with a doctor who can rule out other possible causes.
Interstitial cystitis is chronic, and a person’s symptoms may flare up sometimes. Without treatment, their bladder may undergo scarring, and the amount of urine it can hold
- sexual dysfunction
- sleep disturbance
If symptoms do not improve after treatment, a person can speak with their doctor about other possible treatment options.
Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that can cause pain and discomfort, but it is not life threatening.
A person should visit a healthcare professional for diagnosis as other conditions may cause similar symptoms to interstitial cystitis.
People may be able to reduce the severity and frequency of interstitial cystitis symptoms with various treatment options that a doctor will advise. These treatments may help prevent complications relating to interstitial cystitis.