No one wants to be told that they have Interstitial Cystitis (IC). I know I sure didn’t. Even when you don’t know what IC is yet (which is usually the case when you first get diagnosed), you still hear the part of the diagnosis that says “no known cause and no known cure”. I’m guessing that some doctors must hesitate to diagnose it or at least wish that they didn’t have to tell someone that they have it. I’m guessing this because I don’t want to tell you that you have it either. However, if it were me back when I was experiencing what they are now calling Overactive Bladder, I would have wanted to know. I would have wanted to know why my bladder was overactive and I would have wanted to know how to prevent it from getting worse. No doubt I would have also wanted a magic pill to fix me where I didn’t have to go to the bathroom all the time. In fact, I’m sure this is the way I would have gone had I seen those “gotta go” commercials years ago. However, I still believe that I would have wanted to know the truth even if I were one of the lucky ones that the pill actually helped, I believe it because if I had known then what I know now, I could have prevented a whole series of mistakes that led to a full-blown IC nightmare. So okay, I’m just going to say it. I’m afraid if you’ve been told that you have Overactive Bladder that most likely what you really have is a mild case of Interstitial Cystitis.
For decades women especially have been going to their doctor reporting symptoms of an overactive bladder and do you know what they have been told? They have been told that they’re crazy, that it’s all in their head, that they should just go home and forget about it because there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. Suddenly, a few years ago, this fairly common symptom became a “medical condition”. What changed? What caused urologists to start telling women who complained of having an overactive bladder that they had a medical condition instead of telling them “there is absolutely nothing wrong with you”?
Shortly after seeing the first ads for overactive bladder promoting drugs on television, I remember thinking, if there were a drug out there that helped with urgency and frequency, IC patients would most certainly already know about it. With a little research I came across an article by a urologist who explained how Overactive Bladder as a medical condition was born. She explained how there are companies who search for new patient markets for the drug companies to profit from and in this case they found that millions of people every year go to their doctor complaining of bladder symptoms. So they took a muscle relaxant, re-named it, and re-marketed it to this huge population of people (17 million) who have symptoms of urgency and frequency.
I’m not saying that overactive bladder does not exist. It absolutely does exist as a symptom and it absolutely does mean that there is something physically wrong with a person if they have this symptom. The whole time medical doctors were telling women that it was “all in their head”, they were flat out wrong. Of course all of us who have been diagnosed with IC already know that. But to call a symptom a “medical condition” in order to get people to try a drug that has only a modest success rate and minimal symptom relief for the small percentage of people who even have that “success” is all about the business of selling drugs. It is not at all about you having a “medical condition”.
There is no such thing as "overactive bladder" as a medical condition, at least according to urologists of the last several decades. Until the past few years, there was no insurance code for overactive bladder nor was it in the medical books. If you had symptoms of an overactive bladder and you didn't have a bladder infection, bladder cancer, bladder stones, or a genetic defect, you were diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis (IC). That is pretty much the definition of IC. IC is considered a diagnosis of exclusion and is, in essence, medically unexplainable bladder symptoms of urgency, frequency, and in more severe cases, pain.
Most urologists who treat IC patients will tell you that overactive bladder is a marketing tool, not a medical condition. And if you ask the “IC experts” about overactive bladder they will tell you that the majority of people diagnosed with overactive bladder probably have IC. So why are the urologists going along with this overactive bladder as a medical condition? Is it simply because there is now a prescription to write for it? Do they believe that there is actually a difference between a person having an overactive bladder and a mild case of interstitial cystitis? I don’t think they do and I know for sure that I don’t.
I recently heard from an IC patient named Alice who turned out to be the perfect example of why I felt it was important to write this article. Alice is someone who was told two years ago that she had overactive bladder and was prescribed one of the overactive bladder medications. The medication never really helped her all that much and in time she was told to increase her dosage. Increasing her dosage also didn’t help her symptoms so they switched her to a different overactive bladder medication, which also proved to be ineffective. Alice continued to get worse as her symptoms increased and as new ones started to emerge. Eventually, last week, she was told that she has Interstitial Cystitis. She told me that she believes that it was IC all along. Of course she was right because having an overactive bladder is the main symptom of interstitial cystitis.
If Alice would have been told two years ago that she had interstitial cystitis she could have done things right away to help her bladder to heal. Instead she suffered for two years band-aiding a problem with an inefficient band-aid. Even those diagnosed with IC are often not told about alternative treatments or preventative measures that they can take in order to make sure their bladder does not get progressively worse. But there are safe, natural, alternative treatments that can help and there are things you can do to heal if you have IC.
Not everyone with urgency and frequency symptoms (or mild IC) will end up with a severe case of IC, but some do. The risk is there especially if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. You might inadvertently do things to put yourself at more risk for developing a more severe case if you think you just have overactive bladder. This is what happened to me. This is also what happened to Alice and I’m sure is currently happening to countless others.
If you’ve been told you have overactive bladder or interstitial cystitis there is hope in alternative medicine and a holistic approach. I know there is hope because I healed myself from a severe case of IC using alternative treatments and a holistic approach and I no longer have an overactive bladder.