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Gynecology Services


Interstitial Cystitis Testing

What is Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a painful inflammation of the tissues of the bladder wall with no infection present. Inside a normal bladder, there is a mucous layer that lines and protects the bladder wall. When someone has IC, the mucous layer (glycosaminoglycans (GAG) layer) is believed to be damaged, which may allow irritating substances in the urine to aggravate and inflame the bladder wall, resulting in pain.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms include but are not limited to an urgent, frequent need to urinate, pain when the bladder fills and relief after urination, blood-tinged or cloudy urine, getting up frequently at night to urinate and painful intercourse. The symptoms vary from case to case and even in the same individual. People may experience mild discomfort, pressure, tenderness, or intense pain in the bladder and pelvic area. Women’s symptoms often get worse during menstruation and when certain foods are eaten.

What Causes Interstitial Cystitis?

There is no obvious cause for interstitial cystitis. Some evidence points to irritating substances in the urine or damage to nerve cells along the bladder wall. Some experts also believe that the bladder's GAG layer has become thinned or is absent. A damaged GAG layer may allow irritating substances in the urine to aggravate the bladder wall and cause inflammation and pain.

How is Interstitial Cystitis Diagnosed?

Interstitial cystitis is diagnosed by the Potassium Sensitivity Test. In this test, your provider places two solutions — water and potassium chloride — into your bladder one at a time. You're asked to rate on a scale of 0 to 5 the pain and urgency you feel after each solution is instilled. If you feel noticeably more pain or urgency with the potassium solution than with the water, your provider may diagnose interstitial cystitis. People with normal bladders can't tell the difference between the two solutions. Please do not take any pain medication or bladder analgesics i.e. uristat, prior to your Potassium Sensitivity Test.

How is Interstitial Cystitis Treated?

Treatment includes painless bladder instillations weekly for six to eight weeks, and then possible maintenance instillations and/or an oral medication. Dietary changes will be advised while the bladder instillations and the oral Elmiron are being administered. Foods may then be reintroduced one at a time to determine which, if any, affect your signs and symptoms.

The most irritating foods can be summarized as the "four Cs." The four Cs include carbonated beverages, caffeine in all forms (including chocolate), citrus products and food containing high concentrations of vitamin C.

Special Considerations:

Because the symptoms of IC are like those of bladder infections, helpful friends may suggest the same treatments that they used for a bacterial urinary tract infection (UTI). Be careful — simple home remedies (such as cranberry juice or various herbs) used for UTIs may actually make your IC condition worse. Your best bet is to seek medical advice from your provider.


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