Are you and the toilet becoming better friends than you would like? Are you finding that the sex that was once enjoyable is now leaving you screaming out in pain? You could be experiencing interstitial cystitis symptoms.
Why is interstitial cystitis difficult to diagnose?
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is often a diagnosis of exclusion. This means that testing is usually done to rule out other diseases or conditions that may cause similar symptoms. These might include cystitis (an acute inflammation of the bladder usually caused by a bacterial infection), bladder cancer, type II diabetes, etc.
You see, no two IC patients are exactly alike and interstitial cystitis symptoms vary greatly. For instance, one woman may experience severe pain and bloating and another may experience frequency with little or no pain. What makes it even more difficult to pin down is that symptoms can wax and wane and change over time.
My interstitial cystitis symptoms & diagnosis
I am very fortunate that my diagnosis was made within a few weeks time.
My main symptom bladder specific symptom was urinary frequency, especially nocturia (frequent urination at night).
After ruling out a bladder infection via a urine test, I was put under anesthesia for a cystoscopy. During the procedure my bladder was filled with a solution and distended so the urologist could get a clear view of the bladder wall.
The tiny haemorrhages seen, coupled with my symptoms and a bladder biopsy that came back negative for cancer, led the urologist to conclude that I had a case of “early interstitial cystitis”.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky and some women can suffer for years before a proper diagnosis is made.
So how do you know if you may have interstitial cystitis?
Interstitial cystitis symptoms: 5 Clues that you may be suffering from IC
You are finding that you are heading to the restroom a whole lot more.It is possible for someone with IC to urinate more than 50 times a day! On average, adults urinate 4-7 times a day. If you are going much more than that, it may be a clue that you have IC.
Nighttime urination, also known as nocturia, is one of the more debilitating symptoms of IC because it makes it next to impossible to get a quality sleep. Granted, as you age you may find yourself making 1 or 2 trips to the bathroom at night, but most healthy adults should be able to sleep through the night without being woken up by the need to urinate.
At my worst, I was urinating 10 or more times each night. To make matters worse, my room was in the attic at the time , so I had to climb up and down a steep and narrow flight of stairs with a low ceiling. I’m surprised I didn’t end up with a concussion and a few broken bones to boot!
Not only do you find yourself using the restroom multiple times during the day and night, but you also experience urgency. When you gotta go, you REALLY GOTTA GO!
You might have such a strong urge to urinate that you are fearful you might not make it to the restroom on time. The urgency can feel like pain or pressure in the bladder region that is often relieved for a brief period of time after urination.
3. Bladder pain, spasms or discomfort
The pain you may be experiencing in your bladder can range from a mild discomfort to a full on stabbing pain. The pain can be constant, or come and go. Some IC patients find that they experience a temporary relief of their bladder pain post-urination. Bladder spasms, which can be quite painful, also may be a clue that you are suffering from interstitial cystitis.
4. Pain, pressure or tenderness in the pelvic region and perineum
Sometimes the pain involved in IC can be more generalized and encompass the entire pelvic region, including the perineum (the area between the anus and vagina or anus and scrotum in males).
The level of pain and the frequency at which it occurs can vary and may be temporarily relieved by urination.
5. Painful sex
Lastly, if you are experiencing painful sex, it may be an indication that you have IC. Pain in and around the vagina or penile pain, either during or after sex, is a common interstitial cystitis symptom.
The genital tissues may even appear red or swollen and feel painful to the touch.
So what now?
If you suspect that you may have interstitial cystitis, the best thing to do is to find a reputable urologist who is familiar with IC and speak to them about your symptoms. While a cystoscopy with hydrodistention can be a useful tool in diagnosing IC, the procedure is quite invasive and carries some risk. In many cases, a knowledgeable urologist should be able to diagnose IC based on a combination of symptoms and a non-invasive urine test to rule out bacterial infection.
Remember, you have options
If it does turn out that you have interstitial cystitis, please know that THERE ARE SEVERAL TREATMENT OPTIONS and not all of them fall within the realm of conventional medicine. How you treat your IC is YOUR CHOICE and don’t let anyone tell you any differently.
This blog is for women and men who are curious about healing their IC naturally, or have already made the decision to do so.
Share your story
Are you concerned that you may have IC? Or, have you finally been diagnosed with IC after a long and painful process? I’d love to hear about your experience. Please share in the comments section below!