DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am writing to ask if you would give me information on interstitial cystitis. I was told I had this after I had a polyp removed from my bladder. I know it has to do with the lining of the bladder wall. What causes it? What’s the treatment? Does it get worse? — J.M.
ANSWER: Interstitial cystitis is also known as painful bladder syndrome. It’s a fairly common condition that is commonly misdiagnosed. It affects more women than men. It occurs at any age, but typically, the onset is around age 40.
Frequently, a woman has symptoms for years and years and is told she has repeated bladder infections. Antibiotics, however, provide no relief. Trips to the bathroom are numerous, and nighttime urination disrupts sleep. Bladder pain can be severe. Urination often relieves the pain temporarily. Intercourse also can be painful.
One explanation says the protective covering of the bladder lining has thinned or has disappeared, and urine irritants come in contact with the sensitive bladder lining to produce pain. How this comes about is something that isn’t known with certainty.
Symptoms can get worse, but treatments exist. One is the oral medicine Elmiron. Amitriptyline and gabapentin are also used for pain control.
If you find that a particular food causes increased pain, stay away from it. Spicy foods, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, tea, carbonated drinks and alcohol are some things on the list of irritants for many with this problem.
If you feel lost about the diagnosis and its treatment, contact the Interstitial Cystitis Association (800-435-7422; www.ichelp.org) for information on treatment and support for this mystifying ailment that can completely throw life into turmoil.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My doctor prescribed niacin to lower my cholesterol. After a month and a half, I developed shingles. Could niacin have caused this? — J.
ANSWER: I can assure you, without equivocation, that niacin did not cause your shingles. Shingles comes from the chickenpox virus that stays in the body from the time of its entrance until the time of that person’s death. Mostly at older ages, the virus leaves the nerve cell it found a home in, travels down the nerve root to the skin and produces the typical shingles rash and pain.
Older people should consider getting the shingles vaccine.
Shingles is a painful experience, and the pain can last long after the rash has gone. The shingles booklet explains this common problem and how it’s treated. To obtain a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 1201W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Do you consider toe-touches a good flexibility exercise? — L.F.
ANSWER: They don’t do a whole lot for me. You can stretch leg muscles in other ways that are easier on joints and on the back.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
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