Your Pelvic Pain May Be Interstitial Cystitis
With pelvic pain, you may feel an overall heaviness often described as a bowling ball lying on your intestines, or sometimes, the pain can occur in isolated spots of intense sharp or searing burning sensations that can feel like bee stings. Regardless of the type or location of the pain, finding the cause can get you one step closer to living pain-free.
The most common causes of pelvic pain are endometriosis, reproductive cancer, ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids. However, if you’ve considered these options and cannot find a cause, you and your doctor could look into interstitial cystitis as a possible answer. This condition can cause pelvic pain similar to that of reproductive conditions and can be diagnosed with a simple procedure.
What is interstitial cystitis?
Interstitial cystitis is a bladder condition that results in chronic pelvic pain and inflammation. This is more common in women but can also affect men. Symptoms include abdominal heaviness and discomfort, frequent and urgent need to urinate, tenderness, intense pelvic pain and increased pain when urinating.
Known as painful bladder syndrome, the pangs of this condition confuse the nerves in your bladder to make you feel like you need to urinate more frequently. Interstitial cystitis causes bladder wall stiffness, which can weaken your bladder and impair bladder capacity, leading to more frequent bathroom breaks.
Certain activities can trigger symptoms, such as intense exercise, sexual activity, sitting for long periods and pelvic inflammation caused by menstruation. These triggers often cause patients to alter their lifestyles in an attempt to cope. Unfortunately, these alterations can severely impact their quality of life.
Diagnosing and treating interstitial cystitis
Diagnosing your condition often begins with discussing symptoms with your doctor who will perform a pelvic exam to pinpoint the source of your pain. Depending on the findings, your doctor will likely order a urinalysis to rule out a possible UTI and will also recommend a cystoscopy to examine the bladder walls.
A cystoscopy is a procedure where your doctor inserts a tiny camera into your bladder through the urethra. This procedure provides images of your bladder walls to document signs of inflammation, scarring or stiffening that are indicative of interstitial cystitis.
Once diagnosed, your doctor can prescribe medicine to address your chronic pain, but you should also consider lifestyle and dietary alterations to reduce the frequency of painful attacks. Secondary pelvic issues can often make your pelvic pain worse, so maintaining regular gynecological exams can be important in maintaining your condition.
The most frustrating part of this condition is that many people seek medical intervention to maintain their lifestyle only to find out that their lifestyle may be part of the problem. While the reasons are unknown, researchers have learned stressful lifestyles can intensify the symptoms of interstitial cystitis and chronic pelvic pain. For many people, this could mean a change of career if sitting for long periods and a stressful environment are common in their line of work.
Living with interstitial cystitis
In addition to lifestyle changes, taking antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs and antihistamines can help relax the bladder walls, which can reduce the need for frequent urination and reduce bladder inflammation. Your doctor may also recommend bladder installations that apply the medication directly to the lining of the bladder. The process of managing your interstitial cystitis can take time, but communicating your symptoms with your doctor will increase your chances of recovery.