September is Interstitial Cystitis Awareness Month, and we want to take time to discuss the importance of spreading awareness and share some vital information that could potentially help others who are living with this condition. Bladder health is a big focus here at 180 Medical. Many of our customers live with conditions that require them to use catheters, such as spinal cord injuries, neurogenic bladder, bladder retention or incontinence, and sometimes Interstitial Cystitis (also called Bladder Pain Syndrome, or BPS), among many other reasons.
Interstitial Cystitis can happen to anyone, although it tends to occur more frequently in women rather than men, and it happened to me.
My name is Trish, and I have worked for 180 Medical for over 6 years. I live with Interstitial Cystitis as well as Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Let me tell you a bit about this condition and why awareness is so important.
What is Interstitial Cystitis?
According to the Interstitial Cystitis Association, about 4 million Americans are living with IC. Some of the symptoms of IC can be similar to other issues and conditions, so it can take time to diagnose, but here are some of the main identifying symptoms to watch out for:
- Pain and/or pressure in the bladder and/or pelvic area
- Urgency and frequency of urination
- Lack of infection and negative cultures, despite exhibiting symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Burning sensation
- Nocturia (urge to urinate at night)
- Painful intercourse
How Is Interstitial Cystitis Treated?
While currently there is no known cure, there are a variety of treatments that may make symptoms more manageable. A few options include:
- Avoid triggering foods and follow the IC Diet or your doctor’s recommendations for a diet regimen
- Botox injections in the bladder
- Physical therapy
- Neuromodulation, which is electrical nerve stimulators that send mild pulses to the nerves in the lower back to help relieve chronic pain and/or assist in urinary function
- Over-the-counter medicine (consider your doctor’s advice on which types or brands to seek out)
- Pain management
- Surgical procedures
- Bladder instillations
My Experience With Bladder Instillations
I have had some success in controlling my Interstitial Cystitis with diet and medication, but recently, my symptoms worsened. My urologist recommended bladder instillations as a treatment option, which is a drug therapy method where an anti-inflammatory combination of medication (Heparin, lidocaine, and sodium bicarbonate) is inserted directly into the bladder via a catheter to reduce irritation. The in-office treatments were scheduled for once a week five weeks in a row.
It took about four instillations before I noticed a difference in my symptoms, but everyone is different. Some people might need only one instillation per week, like me, while others might require more instillations per week or over a longer period of time. People who self-cath and receive intermittent catheters may be able to administer the bladder instillation treatments at home if approved by their doctor. Your urologist or other prescribing healthcare professional will be able to come up with the best plan for your individual needs.
Awareness About Interstitial Cystitis Helps
Because some of the symptoms of IC mimic other conditions, not everyone who lives with it knows they have it. Sometimes, people just don’t want to address this condition with a doctor due to its nature. However, the more we all do our part in spreading awareness, the stigma surrounding issues with the bladder will lessen, and more people will feel comfortable talking about their symptoms. And the sooner they can be diagnosed, the sooner they can seek some relief in treatment.
If you think you might have Interstitial Cystitis, talk to your doctor. They’re here to help. Your prescribing healthcare professional will be able to talk over some of your options and get you back to living life as normally as possible again.
Know that you are not at all alone, and there are resources available to you for learning and connecting with a vast network of others who are dealing with symptoms like yours. In the meantime, thanks to raising awareness about this condition, research for a cure and better treatment options continues, and there are some clinical trials underway which will be testing possible new treatments for IC. There is hope ahead!
If you have begun to use intermittent catheters as a related aid to your condition, 180 Medical is here to offer you quality catheter supplies and a listening ear. We have a wide selection from all of the top catheter manufacturers. Contact one of our highly-trained specialists today, and we’ll be glad to help you get set up on the right catheter for your individual needs.