There is no cure for interstitial cystitis, and indeed there are no treatments for this condition that are known to be effective for all patients. Instead, treatment, like diagnosis for this condition, is a trial-and-error process, and results vary among individuals.
Medications for IC include narcotic painkillers, tricyclic antidepressants to relieve pain and urinary frequency, and Vistaril, an antihistamine that causes sedation and helps reduce urinary frequency.
Other treatments that aim at reducing symptoms include
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): Mild electric pulses are sent into the body for up to a few hours two or more times a day, either through wires placed on the lower back or special devices inserted into the vagina (for women) or rectum (for men).
- Bladder distension: This procedure seeks to improve bladder capacity and interfere with pain signals transmitted by nerve cells in the bladder by over-filling the bladder with fluid with the patient is under general anesthesia.
- Bladder instillation: In this procedure, the bladder is filled with a solution that is held for a period of time ranging for a few seconds to 15 minutes, after which the fluid is drained through a catheter.
- Bladder training: The patient urinates as designated times, then uses relaxation techniques to keep to the schedule, graduating trying to lengthen the time between scheduled urinations.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy and biofeedback, when administered by an experienced physical therapist, have been shown to help relieve pelvic floor muscle spasms.
- Surgery: Surgery is usually only considered when other treatment options for IC have not succeeded; surgical options can range from cystoscopic manipulation to cystectomy (bladder removal). Another possible surgery is a bladder augmentation, wherein the bladder is enlarged to accommodate more urine. Two other procedures—fulguration and resection—are used for people who have bladder ulcers. In fulguration, the ulcers are burned off with electricity or a laser. With resection, the ulcers are cut out.
There are also a few steps you can take that may help manage IC symptoms. These include smoking cessation, exercise and diet modification. Some patients have found that avoiding certain foods limits bladder irritation. These include:
- Aged cheeses
- Artificial sweeteners
- Citrus juices
- Cranberry juice (although cranberry juice is frequently recommended for urinary tract infections, it can make IC symptoms worse)
- Fava and lima beans
- Meats that are cured, processed, smoked, canned, aged or that contain nitrites
- Most fruits except blueberries, honeydew melons and pears
- Nuts except almonds, cashews, and pine nuts
- Rye bread
- Seasonings containing MSG
- Sour cream
- Sourdough bread
Do not try to quit eating all these foods at once. Rather, it's better to stop one at a time and see if your symptoms improve.