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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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Interstitial Cystitis

Home or Lifestyle Treatments

For about half the cases, interstitial cystitis goes away by itself. Among those who need treatment, most find relief and get their lives back to normal.

Treatment is mainly about symptom control. It takes trial and error to find the right combination of treatments. And it usually takes weeks or months to calm the symptoms.

The first stage of treatment is to try to avoid triggers and try lifestyle changes that may help ease symptoms.

  • Retrain your bladder to hold more urine. For example, if you feel the need to pee every 30 minutes, try to stretch it out to 45 minutes.
  • Cut down on stress. It can be a trigger. Taking 5 minutes a day to do something for yourself can be a start. Stretch, read a book. Relaxation techniques, talking to a friend, or meditation may help.
  • Wear loose clothing. Tight clothes can put pressure on your bladder.
  • Do low-impact exercise. For example, walk or stretch.
  • Change what you eat and drink to avoid triggers. See below for examples of possible trigger foods and drinks.
  • If you smoke, quit.

A lot of people find that certain foods or drinks irritate their bladders. You don’t have to cut these all out at once. Notice when your symptoms are bad and think back on if you ate or drank any of these. It may be a good idea to keep a food and symptom journal. Take note of what you have each day and how you feel. You can look back to see if there are connections. Not all of these will bother every person.

Common triggers:

  • Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons
  • Tomatoes
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated drinks like coffee and sodas
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Artificial sweeteners

Talk to your doctor about an elimination diet, which could help you figure out what’s affecting your bladder.

Second-Line Treatments for Interstitial Cystitis

If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, then try the next line of treatments:

  • Physical therapy. To help relax your pelvic muscles.
  • Amitriptyline. This drug controls bladder spasms. It’s the most widely used oral medication for IC.
  • Pentosan (Elmiron). It’s not clear how this drug works, but it might help rebuild the bladder tissue lining. It can take a few months to relieve symptoms.
  • Hydroxyzine. This drug is an antihistamine and can be helpful if you have to pee a lot at night.

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