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Interstitial Cystitis: Care Instructions

Female and male urinary systems

Your Care Instructions

Interstitial cystitis is a long-term irritation of the bladder. It can cause mild to severe pain that comes and goes. You also may feel a sudden urge to urinate or need to urinate often. Sometimes the walls of the bladder become scarred or get stiff.

Doctors do not know what causes interstitial cystitis. But they do know that it is not caused by an infection. The problem is much more common in women than in men. Your doctor may do tests to make sure that you do not have an infection, kidney stones, or bladder cancer.

Because the cause of interstitial cystitis is not known, your doctor may try several treatments. It may take several weeks or months to find a treatment that works. If diet and lifestyle changes do not help, you may need medicine. Your doctor may also put liquid or medicine into your bladder for a short time to treat the pain.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Avoid eating spicy foods or high-acid foods, such as tomatoes and oranges, if these foods seem to make your pain worse. Also, limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • If a certain food seems to cause pain in your bladder, stop eating it to see if the pain goes away.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can irritate the bladder and cause bladder cancer. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Try bladder training. Set certain times to use the toilet and slowly increase the time between visits. This may help lengthen the time your bladder can hold urine.
  • You might try a treatment called TENS. It sends a very mild electric current through wires placed near the pubic area. This is done for at least several minutes 2 times each day.
  • Consider a support group. Sharing your experiences with other people who have the same problem may help you learn more and cope better.
  • Wash your pubic area with a mild soap. Avoid deodorant soaps or soaps with heavy perfumes.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing that does not put pressure on your bladder.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of a urinary infection. For example:
    • You have blood or pus in your urine.
    • You have pain in your back just below your rib cage. This is called flank pain.
    • You have a fever, chills, or body aches.
    • It hurts to urinate.
    • You have groin or belly pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.