Interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome, on the surface looks like the urological counterpart of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you have the misfortune of suffering from both, you may be wondering if they are related. Let's take a look at what is known about interstitial cystitis and any possible overlap with IBS.
What Is Interstitial Cystitis?
Interstitial cystitis is a health condition in which a person experiences chronic pain and discomfort related to the bladder. IC can be experienced by men, but is seen with significantly greater frequency in women. There are no known clear-cut causes of IC, although for some, IC may develop following a urinary tract infection, childbirth or hysterectomy. IC symptoms can wax and wane without any clear pattern. Similar to IBS, IC is diagnosed after other disorders have been ruled out.
Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis
The most common IC symptoms are:
- Recurrent bladder pain, pressure and/or discomfort
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Urinary urgency
- Increased frequency of urination
- Need to urinate through the night (nocturia)
The intensity of IC pain and discomfort may change as the bladder fills and empties. For women, IC symptoms may be exacerbated during menstruation. For both men and women, IC may contribute to pain during sexual intercourse.
Treatment Options for Interstitial Cystitis
As you can see, the treatment options for IC range widely:
- IC medication, oral or inserted into the bladder directly
- Other medications, including OTC analgesics, tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines and antispasmodics
- Bladder training
- Physical therapy
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
IC and Diet
Some types of foods have been associated with exacerbating IC symptoms. An elimination diet should be used to identify problematic foods so as to avoid unnecessary nutrient restriction. As you will see, many of these foods are also foods that may trigger IBS.
- Acidic foods
- Alcoholic beverages
- Artificial sweeteners
- Citrus fruits and juice
- Coffee and tea
- Tomatoes and tomato sauces
- Spicy foods
Overlap Between IC and IBS
Research has shown that individuals who suffer from IC are more likely to suffer from other chronic disorders, including IBS. The reason for the overlap is unknown, but does suggest a more system-wide dysfunction. Researchers are looking into the role of inflammatory processes, a "cross-sensitization" among the nerves of the bladder and the bowel, and other central nervous system dysfunction to better understand the underlying factors responsible for the initiation and maintenance of these chronic conditions.
What To Do If You Have IC and IBS
The establishment of a good working partnership with a physician would certainly be ideal if you are suffering from both IC and IBS. Your doctor can help you to sort through the various treatment options for both conditions to sort out which options might benefit both, without exacerbating one or the other.
Since certain foods have a reputation for aggravating either condition, keeping a symptom diary and using an elimination diet may help you to identify foods that are contributing to your bowel or bladder symptoms.
As there may be some system-wide dysfunction that is contributing to both your IC and IBS problems, it might be helpful to look into holistic health approaches. Mind/body activities, such as yoga, meditation and the regular use of relaxation exercises, can help to ease anxiety and stress, both of which can enhance pain sensations.
"Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome" Kidney and Urologic Diseases Clearinghouse Accessed May 22, 2011.
Pezzone, M. "Chronic Pelvic Pain and the Overlap of Chronic Pelvic Pain Disorders" International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Fact Sheet Accessed May 22, 2011.
Pezzone, M., Liang, R. & Fraser, M. "A Model of Neural Cross-Talk and Irritation in the Pelvis: Implications for the Overlap of Chronic Pelvic Pain Disorders" Gastroenterology 2005 128:1953-1964.
Warren, J., et.al. "Antecedent Nonbladder Syndromes in Case-Control Study of Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome" Urology 2009 73:52-57.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.