While he was serving his residency at the Grand Rapids Medical Education and Research Center in Michigan, Dr. Timothy Bedell, an OB/GYN, was exposed to the education of interstitial cystitis, a disease that is also known as Painful Bladder Syndrome.
This work was fueled by his work with urogynecologists at the Female Pelvic Medicine and Urogynecological Institute of Michigan, "who do nothing but urogynecology," Bedell said.
Since joining the staff of Trinity Health in September 2010, Bedell said that he has seen this puzzling disease about once a month.
Interstitial cystitis, or IC, occurs when the protective lining along the wall of the bladder is dissolved. When potassium found in urine touches the bare spots of the bladder wall, it causes pain, Bedell explained. The disease is similar to an ulcer, in which the lining of the stomach is dissolved.
In addition to pain or pressure in the bladder or pelvic region, Bedell said that common symptoms of IC can include frequent urination, a feeling of urgency to urinate, as well as pain during sexual intercourse.
IC is not just a disease for women: men can get it as well, but for them it is easy to diagnose. For women, Bedell said, it is harder to diagnose because of the abundance of organs the uterus, the cervix, the ovaries, to name a few that the symptoms can be attributed to.
This is what makes it difficult to diagnose IC. Making it even more of a medical enigma, the disease is not preventable, nor is there a cure. But there are treatments available, Bedell said. Medications, such as Elmiron, replenishes the protective coating on the bladder. Bedell said he advises patients to take it three times a day for six months, at which time the lining is fairly replenished.
"You can't keep it from coming," Bedell said, noting that it is unknown what causes IC, but are some things that can trigger it, such as alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. It is unknown if these triggers cause IC, but it can irritate the condition, he said.