The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no cure for interstitial cystitis. Treatment for interstitial cystitis is different for everyone. There are several different types of treatment, and you may find that a combination of treatments relieves your symptoms the best. It is common to try various treatments before finding the one or ones that produce the best results for you. Treatments may include medications, nerve stimulation, bladder distention, or surgery.
For some people, over-the-counter pain medications can help relieve symptoms. Prescription medications, such as antihistamines and certain antidepressants, can also help. There is one FDA approved prescription medication (pentosan polysulfate) that specifically targets the bladder. It appears that the medication works to repair the bladder wall and decrease inflammation.
Another FDA approved prescription medication (dimethyl sulfoxide, “DMSO”) is a treatment that is administered directly to the bladder through a catheter. Researchers are not sure how DMSO works, but it appears to reduce inflammation and pain. Steroid or heparin medication may be combined with DMSO treatments.
Transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS) is another type of treatment option that is sometimes paired with physical therapy. With TENS, pads are placed strategically on the pelvic and lower back area. The stimulation device delivers gentle electrical impulses via wires. TENS can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, reduce urinary frequency, relieve pain, and increase blood flow.
In addition to being a diagnostic tool, cystoscopy is also used as a treatment method. Cystoscopy is used to stretch open (distend) the bladder with water or gas. Bladder distention can temporarily improve symptoms for some people and can be repeated.
Surgery for interstitial cystitis is reserved as an option for people with severe symptoms that do not respond to other treatments. Bladder augmentation, fulguration, and resection are types of surgery to help treat interstitial cystitis. Bladder augmentation is used to remove a damaged portion of the bladder or enlarge a bladder that is too small or has very high pressure. This is a major surgery that uses sections of bowel to surgically reconstruct the bladder. Following the procedure, you may need to use a catheter to empty your bladder.
Fulguration (electrodesiccation) is a minimally invasive procedure used to burn sores (ulcers) from the inside of the bladder. Resection, another minimally invasive procedure, uses incisions to remove sores from the inside of the bladder. For both fulguration and resection, the surgeon uses thin surgical instruments that are inserted through the urethra.