What is IC/PBS?
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a condition that results in recurring discomfort or pain in the bladder and the surrounding pelvic region. 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. Symptoms may include an urgent need to urinate, a frequent need to urinate, or a combination of these symptoms. Pain may change in intensity as the bladder fills with urine or as it empties. Women’s symptoms often get worse during menstruation. They may sometimes experience pain during vaginal intercourse. Because IC varies so much in symptoms and severity, most researchers believe it is not one, but several diseases. In recent years, scientists have started to use the terms bladder pain syndrome (BPS) or painful bladder syndrome (PBS) to describe cases with painful urinary symptoms that may not meet the strictest definition of IC. The term IC/PBS includes all cases of urinary pain that can’t be attributed to other causes, such as infection or urinary stones. The term interstitial cystitis, or IC, is used alone when describing cases that meet all of the IC criteria established by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). In IC/PBS, the bladder wall may be irritated and become scarred or stiff. Glomerulationsâ€• pinpoint bleedingâ€•often appear on the bladder wall. Hunner’s ulcersâ€•patches of broken skin found on the bladder wallâ€•are present in 10 percent of people with IC. Some people with IC/PBS find that their bladder cannot hold much urine, which increases the frequency of urination. Frequency, however, is not always specifically related to bladder size; many people with severe frequency have normal bladder capacity when measured under anesthesia or during urologic testing. People with severe cases of IC/PBS may urinate as many as 60 times a day, including frequent nighttime urination, also called nocturia. IC/PBS is far more common in women than in men. Of the estimated 1.3 million Americans with IC/PBS, more than 1 million are women.11Clemens JQ, Joyce GF, Wise M, Payne CK. Interstitial cystitis and painful bladder syndrome. In: Litwin MS, Saigal CS, editors. Urologic Diseases in America. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2007. NIH publication 07â€”5112:123â€”154. The urinary system:
What causes IC/PBS?
Some of the symptoms of IC/PBS resemble those of bacterial infection, but medical tests reveal no organisms in the urine of people with IC/PBS. Furthermore, people with IC/PBS do not respond to antibiotic therapy. Researchers are working to understand the causes of IC/PBS and to find effective treatments. Many women with IC/PBS have other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia. Scientists believe IC/PBS may be a bladder manifestation of a more general condition that causes inflammation in various organs and parts of the body. Researchers are beginning to explore the possibility that heredity may play a part in some forms of IC. In a few cases, IC has affected a mother and a daughter or two sisters, but it does not commonly run in families.
How is IC/PBS diagnosed?
Because symptoms are similar to those of other disorders of the bladder and there is no definitive test to identify IC/PBS, doctors must rule out other treatable conditions before considering a diagnosis of IC/PBS. The most common of these diseases in both sexes are urinary tract infections and bladder cancer. In men, common diseases include chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome. In women, endometriosis is a common cause of pelvic pain. IC/PBS is not associated with any increased risk of developing cancer. The diagnosis of IC/PBS in the general population is based on the
- presence of pain related to the bladder, usually accompanied by frequency and urgency of urination
- absence of other diseases that could cause the symptoms
Diagnostic tests that help rule out other diseases include urinalysis, urine culture, cystoscopy, biopsy of the bladder wall and urethra, and distention of the bladder under anesthesia.
Urinalysis and Urine Culture
Examining urine with a microscope and culturing the urine can detect and identify the primary organisms that are known to infect the urinary tract and that may cause symptoms similar to IC/PBS. A urine sample is obtained either by catheterization or by the clean catch method. For a clean catch, the patient washes the genital area before collecting urine midstream in a sterile container. White and red blood cells and bacteria in the urine may indicate an infection of the urinary tract, which can be treated with an antibiotic. If urine is sterile for weeks or months while symptoms persist, the doctor may consider a diagnosis of IC/PBS.
Culture of Prostate Secretions
Although not commonly done, in men without a history of culture-documented urinary tract infections, the doctor might obtain prostatic fluid and examine it for signs of a prostate infection, which can then be treated with antibiotics.
Cystoscopy under Anesthesia with Bladder Distention
The doctor may perform a cystoscopic examination in order to rule out bladder cancer. During cystoscopy, the doctor uses a cystoscope •an instrument made of a hollow tube about the diameter of a drinking straw with several lenses and a light •to see inside the bladder and urethra. The doctor might also distend or stretch the bladder to its capacity by filling it with a liquid or gas. Because bladder distention is painful for people with IC/PBS, they must be given some form of anesthesia for the procedure. Cystoscope
A biopsy is a tissue sample that can be examined with a microscope. Tissue samples of the bladder and urethra may be removed during a cystoscopy. A biopsy helps rule out bladder cancer.
What are the treatments for IC/PBS?
Scientists have not yet found a cure for IC/PBS, nor can they predict who will respond best to which treatment. Symptoms may disappear with a change in diet or treatments or without explanation. Even when symptoms disappear, they may return after days, weeks, months, or years. Scientists do not know why. Because the causes of IC/PBS are unknown, current treatments are aimed at relieving symptoms. Many people are helped for variable periods by one or a combination of treatments. As researchers learn more about IC/PBS, the list of potential treatments will change, so patients should discuss their options with a doctor.
Many people with IC/PBS have noted an improvement in symptoms after a bladder distention has been done to diagnose the condition. In many cases, the procedure is used as both a diagnostic test and initial therapy. Researchers are not sure why distention helps, but some believe it may increase capacity and interfere with pain signals transmitted by nerves in the bladder. Symptoms may temporarily worsen 4 to 48 hours after distention, but should return to predistention levels or improve within 2 to 4 weeks.
During a bladder instillation, also called a bladder wash or bath, the bladder is filled with a solution that is held for varying periods of time, averaging 10 to 15 minutes, before being emptied. The only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for bladder instillation is dimethyl sulfoxide (Rimso-50), also called DMSO. DMSO treatment involves guiding a narrow tube called a catheter up the urethra into the bladder. A measured amount of DMSO is passed through the catheter into the bladder, where it is retained for about 15 minutes before being expelled. Treatments are given every week or two for 6 to 8 weeks and repeated as needed. Most people who respond to DMSO notice improvement 3 or 4 weeks after the first 6- to 8-week cycle of treatments. Highly motivated patients who are willing to catheterize themselves may, after consultation with their doctor, be able to have DMSO treatments at home. Self-administration is less expensive and more convenient than going to the doctor’s office.‚Ä®Doctors think DMSO works in several ways. Because it passes into the bladder wall, it may reach tissue more effectively to reduce inflammation and block pain. It may also prevent muscle contractions that cause pain, frequency, and urgency. A bothersome but relatively insignificant side effect of DMSO treatments is a garliclike taste and odor on the breath and skin that may last up to 7 hours after treatment. Long-term treatment has caused cataracts in animal studies, but this side effect has not appeared in humans. Blood tests, including a complete blood count and kidney and liver function tests, should be done about every 6 months.