Little-known disease afflicts many

Little-known disease afflicts many

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

It is a condition that affects at least one million Americans, 90 percent of them women, yet it is often misdiagnosed. It is called interstitial cystitis.

That is a chronic, progressive, and painful bladder condition. Yet it often is taken for a routine urinary tract infection.

Dr. Jay Burstein, who practices at Kishwaukee Community Hospital, is a urologist and recognized authority on this condition. “There are probably one million persons suffering from it,” he said. “I have more than 250 patients myself. Diagnosis is very easy if the diagnosis is considered,” he said. “The problem is a lot of doctors don’t consider it. It’s a matter of education. Twenty years ago doctors didn’t think the condition existed. It’s an urgency, frequency, pain syndrome. When the patient complains of this you have to consider cystitis.

“You have to have a high index of suspicion of the disease,” Dr. Burstein said.

Cystitis generally manifests in middle age, between 42-46 years old. It causes pelvic pain, urinary frequency both day and night and urinary urgency.

Dr. Burstein said the cause of this ailment remains unknown and there is no way to prevent the condition from developing. There are, however, many effective treatments. “There is significant relief once the patient understands the condition,” he said.

One drug that is effective is Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium). A capsule, it is the only Food and Drug Administration-approved oral medication for this condition. The drug resembles the lining of the bladder and reinforces the bladder’s protective layer.

Another treatment is bladder irrigation with dimethylsulfoxide. The drug is an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.

“It is important to recognize the symptoms as quickly as possible,” Dr. Burstein said. Many people are uncomfortable talking about cystitis, but it is vital to see your doctor and tell him or her about your symptoms.

Research is proceeding into the cause and treatment of interstitial cystitis. “The main thrust of treatment is to see if capsaicin (the fiery chemical in chili peppers) can help relieve the pain,” Dr. Burstein said. “Derivitives also are under investigation. High doses can anesthetize the sensory nerves of the bladder. The growth factor has been found to be deficient in the bladder lining cells (of patients),” he said.

Relatively few people are aware of interstitial cystitis. For that reason the American Foundation for Urologic Disease is conducting an educational campaign for the public and to encourage those with symptoms to seek treatment.

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