Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic condition often misdiagnosed as a urinary tract infection and potentially treatable through a number of interventions.
The Urology Hospital, Pretoria, says interstitial cystitis is extremely debilitating and dramatically affects one’s quality of life.
It may also cause emotional stress and problems with sexual intimacy.
Symptoms include a feeling of immense pressure and pain in the bladder or pelvis, as well as the constant need to urinate. The pain is often relieved after urinating.
Other symptoms – which differ from person to person - include difficulty urinating and frequent urination. Pain in the scrotum, penis, testes, or between the anus and scrotum are typical male symptoms.
Women may experience pain between the vagina and anus as well as pelvic pain.
Many of these are also symptoms of a urinary tract infection, so it is important to consult a urologist for an accurate diagnosis, says Dr Preena Sivsankar from The Urology Hospital.
Misdiagnosis may result in the unnecessary use of antibiotics which could result in antibiotic resistance, while failing to treat the interstitial cystitis.
The number of people suffering from interstitial cystitis in South Africa is not known, but it affects women slightly more than men.
In the United States, it affects between three and eight million women and between one and four million men.
The exact causes are unknown, so treatments may vary.
Relief of these symptoms may come from a change in diet and lifestyle and fluid intake. Medication and certain procedures may also assist.
Sivsankar says interstitial cystitis can be diagnosed through a pelvic exam, a urine test, a cystoscopy, and a bladder biopsy.
A urodynamic study is also useful to exclude other conditions.
“There is no simple treatment. If you have symptoms, call The Urology Hospital or consult your urologist who will work with you on a treatment regime”, said Sivsankar.