Many women have experienced debilitating bouts of cystitis at some point in their lives. They know the pain the infection causes; the discomfort of constantly feeling as though you need to urinate, only for it to be incredibly painful when you do.
Cystitis can also cause pain in your lower abdomen and an ache in your lower back. Naturally all of these symptoms leave you feeling terrible. But now imagine that your bout of cystitis could last for months, and that there would seem to be very little you could do to relieve your suffering.
This just begins to explain how interstitial cystitis is different to other forms of the urinary tract infection (UTI).
To compound the misery of those suffering from interstitial cystitis, it is poorly understood within the medical profession and as a result can take a long time to be correctly diagnosed. As well as feeling as though you need to urinate more frequently than normal, you will feel intense pelvic pain if you are suffering from interstitial cystitis.
In some cases, the bladder can be inflamed, ulcerated, scarred or stiff, but this won’t necessarily be true of everyone with the condition.
As the NHS acknowledges, there is no cure for this condition and antibiotics don’t help. The health service notes that there are a number of theories about what causes interstitial cystitis, but with no definitive answer it’s difficult for patients to know what to do for the best.
This is where my cystitis self help books can provide assistance. They outline a range of treatments that you can try, once you’ve established what sets off your outbreaks of cystitis.
Your first port of call should be to make lifestyle changes to help improve your symptoms. Remember that everyone’s bodies are different, and what works for one person may not work for you. But you will find methods that work and allow you to live your life to the full again.
Avoiding certain foods or drinks, reducing stress and finding ways to relax, and stopping smoking are among the suggestions on the NHS website, but through my years of experience I have many more.
Writing for Bustle last year, Suzannah Weiss shared her experiences of getting an interstitial cystitis diagnosis and also tackled some of the myths that surround the condition.
The first myth she wanted to debunk was that if you have interstitial cystitis, you’re destined to spend the rest of your life in pain. This isn’t true – you will have periods where your symptoms improve and by learning what triggers your flare ups you can manage the condition and live a normal, relatively pain-free life.
Another misconception about the condition is that your diet doesn’t affect it. This isn’t true. What you eat and drink can have a significant impact on the severity of your symptoms, and Ms Weiss revealed that since following the interstitial cystitis diet she’s seen an improvement in her condition.
While the condition, like cystitis, more commonly affects women that doesn’t mean it can’t occur in men. Because it is less common in men, it may take even longer for a correct diagnosis.