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Interstitial Cystitis / Painful Bladder Syndrome

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Oral Drugs

Pentosan polysulfate sodium (Elmiron)

This first oral drug developed for IC was approved by the FDA in 1996. In clinical trials, the drug improved symptoms in 30 percent of patients treated. Doctors do not know exactly how it works, but one theory is that it may repair defects that might have developed in the lining of the bladder.

The FDA-recommended oral dosage of Elmiron is 100 mg, three times a day. Patients may not feel relief from IC pain for the first 2 to 4 months. A decrease in urinary frequency may take up to 6 months. Patients are urged to continue with therapy for at least 6 months to give the drug an adequate chance to relieve symptoms.

Elmiron's side effects are limited primarily to minor gastrointestinal discomfort. A small minority of patients experienced some hair loss, but hair grew back when they stopped taking the drug. Researchers have found no negative interactions between Elmiron and other medications.

Elmiron may affect liver function, which should therefore be monitored by the doctor.

Because Elmiron has not been tested in pregnant women, the manufacturer recommends that it not be used during pregnancy, except in the most severe cases.

Other oral medications

Aspirin and ibuprofen may be a first line of defense against mild discomfort. Doctors may recommend other drugs to relieve pain.

Some patients have experienced improvement in their urinary symptoms by taking tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline) or antihistamines. Amitriptyline may help to reduce pain, increase bladder capacity, and decrease frequency and nocturia. Some patients may not be able to take it because it makes them too tired during the day. In patients with severe pain, narcotic analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) with codeine or longer acting narcotics may be necessary.

All drugs-even those sold over the counter-have side effects. Patients should always consult a doctor before using any drug for an extended amount of time.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation

With transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), mild electric pulses enter the body for minutes to hours two or more times a day either through wires placed on the lower back or just above the pubic area, between the navel and the pubic hair, or through special devices inserted into the vagina in women or into the rectum in men. Although scientists do not know exactly how TENS relieves pelvic pain, it has been suggested that the electrical pulses may increase blood flow to the bladder, strengthen pelvic muscles that help control the bladder, or trigger the release of substances that block pain.

TENS is relatively inexpensive and allows the patient to take an active part in treatment. Within some guidelines, the patient decides when, how long, and at what intensity TENS will be used. It has been most helpful in relieving pain and decreasing frequency in patients with Hunner's ulcers. Smokers do not respond as well as nonsmokers. If TENS is going to help, improvement is usually apparent in 3 to 4 months.

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